As you know, today La. Gov. Bobby Jindal released his executive budget for the 2015-2016 year, which includes cuts to higher education in Louisiana. I sent the following correspondence to University of New Orleans faculty and staff.
Gov. Jindal today unveiled his executive budget for the upcoming fiscal year (FY 15-16). As we expected, it contains cuts to higher education in order to help offset a budget deficit of approximately $1.6 billion. Although the figure is quite a bit less than anticipated, we remain concerned about reduced higher education funding and the toll it continues to take on the University. The executive budget calls for a $141.3 million cut to higher education — every public 2-year and 4-year institution in the state will be similarly affected. The governor also proposed additional means to help make up the higher education shortfall. We are hopeful that state lawmakers will pursue every avenue possible to protect higher education and further close the budget gap.
The governor’s recommendations will serve as a starting point for negotiations during the upcoming legislative session, which begins April 13 and will conclude on June 11. Only then will we know the exact amount of our budget. And with the new fiscal year starting on July 1, we will need to take swift action to meet the deadline of submitting a balanced budget. Faculty, staff and students will have input in the process, and we will communicate with you regularly.
In the meantime, there is a lot of work to be done. University administrators are working closely with the University of Louisiana System, state higher education officials, business leaders, alumni and lawmakers to try to identify solutions that will mitigate the cuts to higher education. The state’s higher education leaders have submitted a letter to Gov. Jindal asking that he support a number of measures to support and protect higher education.
To read the letter, visit http://ulsystem.edu/assets/docs/searchable/spotlights/Budget/Joint%20Higher%20Education%20Letter%202-26-15.pdf.
We are also working diligently to increase public awareness of our plight. Our message can be summed up in a simple question: do you support more education for Louisiana or less? The prosperity of our state and our quality of life is inextricably linked to a healthy system of public colleges and universities. Cuts to institutions prevent educational access and achievement and derail economic growth.
In addition to those efforts, we are creating budget scenarios and devising plans for how we might deal with the various outcomes of the budgeting process. The University Budget Committee will continue its work of analyzing recent spending and making recommendations to me about how to adjust the budget in the upcoming fiscal year. As a reminder, the committee meets regularly on Wednesdays from 9:30-11 a.m. in Library 407. The first 10 minutes of every meeting is reserved for comments or questions from visitors. You can also submit comments and questions to email@example.com.
I will conclude with one valuable piece of information. If you are interested in learning more about how you can support the University during this important time by joining the Privateer Advocacy Network, which you can visit here: http://www.ciclt.net/sn/clt/uno/default.aspx. It’s a joint effort of the UNO Alumni Association and the UNO Foundation. I pledge to you that I will continue to fight for the University of New Orleans and public higher education in Louisiana. I will provide more updates when I get them. Thank you for all you do for the University.
I would like to update you on the proposed Executive Budget that Governor Jindal will present to the State Legislature in a few weeks. As you may have read in the news, the Governor is currently considering how to address the estimated $1.5B budget deficit for the 2015-16 academic year (FY16). Currently, the predicted decrease to higher education will exceed $300M (the effect to the University of New Orleans will be a reduction of about 20 percent of our total budget).
Today I reached out to University of New Orleans faculty and staff to let them know that higher education leaders from our campus and around the state are continuing to work hard to educate legislators about impacts, needs and demands. Every day UL President Sandra Woodley and UL System staff are meeting with the other higher education systems, the Commissioner of Higher Education and Board of Regents staff, elected officials, members of the Governor’s staff, and the staffs of the House of Representatives and Senate. These meetings are resulting in plans which, I hope, will mitigate much of the proposed budget reduction. I am not certain that each plan will be successful, but I have become much more hopeful over the past few days. The situation is very fluid. I will have more to share with you when the Governor submits his Executive Budget in early February.
In the meantime, my message to faculty and staff is to maintain focus on our core mission … to provide the best possible experience for our students in and out of the classroom. We have a very committed and professional faculty and staff, and a bright, diverse, and engaged student body. The University of New Orleans is a very special place, and we are all fortunate to play a part in its greatness.
I ask everyone in the UNO community to please continue to do what you do best and try not to dwell on the possibility of another budget reduction. I pledge to you that I will work tirelessly with the UL System Board members, the UL System staff, our local elected officials, business leaders, and our dedicated alumni to identify solutions to the budget situation and to continue to move our University of New Orleans forward.
Dr. Emir Jose Macari joins the University of New Orleans today as our new Dean of Engineering. We wish him the best and look forward to his tenure.Today, I would like to extend a warm welcome to Emir Jose Macari, the new dean of the College of Engineering.
Dr. Macari comes to us from California State University, Sacramento, where he served as a professor in the College of Engineering and Computer Science and director of the California Smart Grid Center. He succeeds Norm Whitley, who has served as interim dean of the UNO College of Engineering since June 2012 and during that time period has provided outstanding leadership in the College and to the University as a whole.
Dr. Macari brings previous experience as an engineering dean at the College of Engineering and Computer Science at California State University, Sacramento and the dean of the College of Science and Technology at the University of Texas at Brownsville. Closer to home, he also served the chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental engineering at LSU from 1999-2001. In 2004, a joint session of the Louisiana State Legislature honored Dr. Macari for “Outstanding Accomplishments and Contributions to Louisiana State University.” Dr. Macari has also taught at Georgia Tech and the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, and spent two years as a program director at the National Science Foundation.
Macari, as a geotechnical engineer and disaster mitigation expert, is an excellent addition to our faculty and a boon to our new Coastal Sciences and Engineering graduate certificate programs. His long list of accomplishments includes receiving the 2014 Jaime Oaxaca Award, given annually by the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers to recognize outstanding contributions to the fields of engineering and science to the Hispanic community over an extended period of time.
We are happy to have Dr. Macari here on campus and look forward to his leadership. We are grateful to the search committee who worked tirelessly for many months to bring him here to campus. And we are grateful to Dr. Whitley for his outstanding service. While we are sorry to see him go, we expect to see him visiting campus and know that we will enjoy the fruits of his labors for years to come.