Higher tuition offsets shortfall
LSU did not fall off the budgetary “cliff,” as feared, but the university still stands “at the edge,” Chancellor Michael Martin said late Friday after releasing the $441 million operating budget for the Baton Rouge campus.
The university is implementing about $2 million in direct budget cuts in the budget for the fiscal year that began on July 1. Enrollment and tuition increases have offset much of the funding reductions from state government in the overall budget, Martin said.
Some of the biggest hits, according to budget documents, include losses in funding to music scholarships, LSU Greek Life, The Southern Review literary publication, the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, ROTC scholarships, campus mail and the trademark licensing program. The athletic department will cover more marching band scholarships.
The LSU Press will absorb The Southern Review and the vet school’s $600,000 cut is largely offset by its own tuition increases and other revenues, Martin said.
Students in fraternities and sororities will have to pay “slightly higher fees,” he said, while campus mail services have been privatized.
The operating budget proposal was submitted to the LSU System Office, which oversees all LSU campuses around the state, and must receive approval from the LSU Board of Supervisors later this month.
Surprisingly spared in the budget were the Louisiana Geological Survey, LSU museums and other units that were told by LSU officials to prepare for larger cuts.
“We were able to give them a little breathing room (this year) as they adjust to new realities,” Martin said.
The goal is for such ancillary units to continue to become more financially self-reliant, he said, but the decision was made to cushion them for one more year.
The university was spared larger cuts largely because LSU Baton Rouge campus, the state’s flagship university, would receive $7.9 million from a new LSU System-created “Flagship Fund.” “We appealed to the system office for a little help in filling the hole,” Martin said.
In the spring, the campus and system office had butted heads over $17 million in carry-over tuition revenues dollars funneled through the state Higher Education Initiative Fund. LSU wanted a larger share of what it claimed were dollars generated in Baton Rouge while the system office wanted to spread more of the dollars to smaller LSU System campuses.
Now, the new $7.9 million Flagship Fund money may have to come from other LSU System campuses. Martin said he does not know from where the LSU System will take those dollars.
LSU System President John Lombardi did not respond to an interview request Friday afternoon.
Other than the vet school, the biggest change in dollars on the main LSU campus is the athletic department absorbing $325,000 in annual Tiger Marching Band scholarships.
But $286,500 in non-marching band music scholarship cuts will not be recouped.
The LSU College of Music and Dramatic Arts kicked off a scholarship fundraising drive in March.
“It’s hard to sleep at night,” said Laurence Kaptain, dean of the college, in March over concerns about not being able to attract top music students without the scholarships.
Elsewhere on campus, the Army ROTC program is losing about $180,000 in Honor Award scholarships for student housing.
LSU also is cutting $35,000 in graduate assistant tuition exemptions that will be paid for by other campuses
LSU already had eliminated its Bengal Legacy Scholarships for out-of-state students with alumni parents because of budget cuts.
Martin warned though that the university may have to make more drastic budget cuts to core academic areas if there is additional state budget axing in December or January as there have been the past three years.
Three years ago, LSU was 60 percent reliant on state funds and now the university is 40 percent dependent on state dollars because of budget cuts, he said. Multiple years of tuition increases have filled some of the holes, the chancellor said, with tuition again going up 10 percent this fall.
LSU has frozen merit pay increases for three years, Martin said, but the university “must” find a way to afford pay raises next year.