03.18.15 Higher Education Forum

LSU President and Chancellor Dr. F. King Alexander, Jan Moller from the Louisiana Budget Project and State Representative Patricia Smith on Wednesday, Mar. 18, 2015 answering questions concerning budget cuts at the Higher Education Forum in the Journalisim Building.

LSU President F. King Alexander told students Wednesday evening the best way to fight budget cuts is to “be annoying” in contacting their legislators.

Alexander’s remarks came during a Higher Education Forum hosted by Geaux Vote LSU, a student organization, and funded by the Andrew Goodman Foundation, aimed at encouraging University students to engage in political participation and activism.

The forum gave students the chance to question Alexander, University of Louisiana system president Sandra Woodley and Louisiana Budget Project director Jan Moller.

Panelists answered questions about the future of higher education, increases in tuition and fees and student involvement in the decision-making process.

“States are getting out of the public higher education business rather rapidly,” Alexander said. “They’re pushing higher education onto [a student’s] back and justifying it by saying it’s only an individual benefit. It is a societal benefit to support a student.”

Alexander said the University is trying to decipher how not to cut classes, as well as keep faculty and students in the classroom.

He also said University officials will work with Student Government to ensure essential student services are not eliminated.

Class scheduling begins Thursday, and Alexander said there’s a possibility students could sign up for a class that would end up being cut, depending on the magnitude of state budget reductions.

“We’re in a very foggy atmosphere right now, and I wish we had more clarity as to what’s going to happen in June,” Alexander said. “If these budget reductions go unmitigated and addressed to the fullest capacity, it is possible ... that with a budget cut of this magnitude, we may not even be opening in August. An 81 to 82 percent budget reduction is the largest single budget reduction in, not only our history, but in every state.”

The panel addressed degree devaluation, for which all three of the panelists said losing money could lead universities in the state to lose their accreditation.

Alexander said professor-to-student ratio increases could cause schools within the University to drop in rankings.

When discussing alternatives to the budget cuts, Moller said the legislature must look at more revenue options despite Gov. Bobby Jindal’s anti-revenue stance.

“Louisiana has already sustained the highest cuts in state support for higher education in the country, over $5,000 per student when you total up all the cuts, now is the time to look beyond the parameters [Jindal] has set,” Moller said. “Would you rather spend dollars on professor that’s going to live here and raise a family here, or an actor that will spend two weeks in a hotel and then go back to Hollywood?”

However Alexander assured the audience, comprised of less than 20 students, not including faculty and press, cuts on higher education are not inevitable.

“If we accept budget cuts as inevitable we’ve lost the battle,” Alexander said. “This is nothing more than a question of choice. Do we want to incarcerate someone for $37,000 a year, or educate someone for $3,000. This is about choices we’re making.”

The event was also sponsored by Common Sense Action LSU and Students for Education Reform at LSU.

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