A few more rounds of state budget cuts and LSU’s Paul M. Hebert Law Center will have trouble staying competitive in the region and in the nation, Chancellor Jack Weiss said at an LSU board meeting Friday.
Earlier this year, the Law Center was recognized in a national report for churning out some of the country’s most prepared law school graduates.
The study by The National Jurist magazine on the “Best Schools for Bar Exam Preparation” credited Law Center graduates as having the best bar exam passage rates in the nation when compared to the scores of incoming law school students.
But while the Law Center’s budget has remained relatively stable — between $21 million and $22 million in recent years — state funding has plummeted during the same period.
During the 2007-08 school year, law school funding was at about a 50-50 split between money from the state and tuition revenue, Weiss said.
Five years later, students are picking up about 75 percent of the tab, Weiss said.
Speaking to the LSU Board of Supervisors, Weiss proposed an arrangement where the law school would receive state funds annually at a level at least equal to the best funded LSU campus or unit.
That dollar figure could be as little as a one percent annual boost, Weiss said, explaining that the difference between a “feast or famine” situation at the law school “is not a lot of money.”
The board didn’t take action on the chancellor’s proposal.
“When our students pay more tuition, they should see their dollars go into enhanced academic offerings and new programs, not into offsetting decreases in our state appropriation,” Weiss said.
Michael Martin, chancellor of LSU’s Baton Rouge campus, also reported to the board Friday, detailing how the school would get through the year as it copes with a $19 million cut from the state.
On tap is a mixture of cuts to academic units, consolidations and a $5.5 million boost from the LSU Athletic Department to keep the flagship campus in the black and avoid having to lay off faculty and staff.
Martin also credited a state funding formula provision that rewards individual schools for performance for keeping the school’s budget relatively stable.
LSU’s School of Veterinary Medicine will receive a cut of less than $2 million, Martin said. The Colleges of Engineering and the College of Human Sciences and Education will realize savings from departmental mergers, he added.
Robert Kuhn, LSU’s vice-provost for fiscal management, explained that increased enrollment and a tuition increase will generate about $24 million — offsetting the reduction in funding from the state.
Students contribute about 67 percent of the school’s operating budget after years of state budget cuts and corresponding tuition hikes.
LSU Agricultural Center Chancellor Bill Richardson said his institution is facing a $5.4 million cut from the state and another $400,000 burden from unfunded mandates.
But Richardson said the center should be able to make it through the year by collecting royalties from inventions and consolidating research stations or offices.
“We won’t have layoffs,” Richardson said.