The Associated Press June 12, 2012, 10:26AM ET

UL System leader urges reworking of college cuts

The leader of the University of Louisiana System said Monday he's asked the state's top higher education board to scrap its method for divvying up dollars among Louisiana's public colleges, saying the formula is inappropriate to use with budget cuts.

UL System President Randy Moffett said the performance-based formula devised by the Board of Regents was designed when state funding for higher education was increasing, to create incentives for campuses to improve their performance. He said it wasn't designed to strip funding from schools.

"Given the financial crisis facing higher education in Louisiana, a temporary suspension of the formula would allow limited resources to be allocated in a fairer manner," Moffett, who oversees nine college campuses across the state, said in a statement.

Higher education is taking another round of cuts in the upcoming budget year, slated for a $66 million drop in state funding when the fiscal year begins July 1.

Commissioner of Higher Education Jim Purcell, who leads the Regents office, showed no interest Monday in suspending use of the performance-based system, even with budget cuts.

"None of us want to spend our time reducing the delivery of higher education to the citizens of Louisiana," Purcell said in a statement. But he added, "I am very comfortable with the distribution of funding using the current funding formula."

Regents intends to split about $1 billion in state funding across the four individual university systems based on the formula, which considers graduation rates, skills training for high-need job areas and other benchmarks -- rather than doling out dollars solely on student enrollment.

Tension over the formula has grown as higher education leaders have been saddled with repeated cuts to their state funding.

Since July 2008, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration and lawmakers have stripped nearly $427 million in state general funds from higher education. Campuses have raised their own revenues, nearly all through tuition and fee hikes on students, to cover $390 million of that gap. But those dollars are spread out differently over campuses than cuts.

Moffett said the formula divisions don't recognize differences in campus roles and missions, don't account for the greater risks of cuts at small schools and don't acknowledge differences in tuition rates compared to peer institutions.

"It seems appropriate and timely that a healthy, collaborative dialogue about a fair funding model needs to occur," he said.

Purcell said credit hours are weighted in the formula based on type of school and program to assure adequate and proper funding for schools. He said the formula includes a provision that seeks to protect schools with declining enrollments or a shrinking share of funds that he said kept many of the UL System campuses from deeper cuts in the most recent budget cycle.

He noted that community colleges with boosts in students were unhappy that the provision that benefited some UL campuses limited the increased funding the two-year schools could get for higher enrollment. And he suggested Moffett was trying to get more money at the expense of other systems.

"I think in this particular case, there is more of a desire to redirect funds from other systems to the UL System. In a meeting with the system heads on the budget, I saw no willingness to redirect funds from one system to another," Purcell said.

The UL System is the largest of Louisiana's college systems, with 94,000 students.


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