Capitol news bureau
September 17, 2012
University of Louisiana System President Randy Moffett stepped down from his post Friday, ending a 41-year career in higher education including the last four as head of the state’s largest network of colleges.
Moffett’s tenure as UL System president coincided with a period in which state funding for higher education dipped by more than $425 million. The UL System absorbed more than $200 million of those cuts as Gov. Bobby Jindal and the state Legislature maneuvered to balance state budgets.
Those budget cuts prompted Moffett — mostly regarded as soft-spoken by his peers — to take on more of an active role at the State Capitol this spring calling on the state to distribute money to colleges more equitably.
Sitting in his mostly empty office on Thursday, Moffett, 65, said he didn’t plan on becoming more outspoken in his final year.
“We’re all dealing with broad challenges and less resources,” he said. “I felt there were things that needed to be addressed. I have no regrets.”
Moffett’s successor will have to take up the challenges of overseeing the nine-university system which includes the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana Tech University in Ruston and the University of New Orleans.
The UL Board of Supervisors started what they hoped would be an expedited search for Moffett’s replacement in July when he first announced his intention to retire. At the time, board Chairman Wayne Parker said he hoped to have someone in place by mid-September.
After only receiving eight applications by late August, however, the UL Board shifted strategy and is looking to hire a recruiting firm to broaden its search.
“I don’t want to say we don’t appreciate the candidates who’ve applied, but we’ve thought it best to expand our search and get more qualified candidates,” Parker said Thursday.
“Randy Moffett has done a great job; he was a great leader. We’re going to miss him,” Parker said.
The UL System announced Friday that longtime educator Tom Layzell would serve as interim president until the position is filled. Layzell has worked in higher education for four decades including stints in three different state systems.
He most recently worked in Louisiana while serving as an adviser to the state Board of Regents, the state’s top higher education board in 2010 and 2011. Layzell will officially start Oct. 17. UL’s Vice President for Business and Finance Robbie Robinson will serve as interim chief of staff until then.
Moffett said he plans to spend the next few months fishing, playing golf and spending time with his five — soon to be six — grandchildren.
In the UL System Office, Moffett was regarded as a president who presided over sweeping changes, many of them fueled by the drastic reduction in funding from the state.
He served during a period where the UL System improved graduation and retention rates; raised the number of online degree programs offered from 52 to 126; and increased enrollment from about 80,000 to more than 93,000.
On Moffett’s watch, the system also restructured more than 300 academic programs two years ago in pioneering the 120-credit hour degree standard that all of Louisiana’s public universities live by.
Moffett said the standard simplifies the process for both traditional students starting college as teenagers and older, working students to make it through their initial enrollment all the way through graduation.
Moffett said he’s especially proud of the collaborative degrees offered in the UL System where students can take classes through a number of different campuses — either in person or online — on their way to a degree.
“The beauty of it is that you don’t have to offer every course on every campus,” Moffett said. “You can be more efficient and reduce faculty costs that way.”
As for the future of Louisiana’s public higher education system, Moffett said he’s in favor of taking tuition raising authority out of the hands of the Legislature and giving it to the state’s four college systems.
“It needs to be done with some performance standards built in,” Moffett said. “We need to revisit our revenue-tuition plan,” in Louisiana.