Jindal, university heads talk higher ed at Day 4 of legislative session

Jindal, university heads talk higher education at Day 4 of Legislative Session

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics supports Gov. Jindal when he says more Louisiana people are working than ever before. But according to higher ed leaders, you'll find fewer of those people working at public colleges and universities as well as fewer students now.

"You begin to see over the past two or three years a drop in the number of students, with fewer and fewer students being educated in our higher ed," said Dr. Joseph Rallo, Louisiana Higher Education Commissioner.

Dr. Rallo says higher ed has also lost over 4,500 workers since 2008.

President Sandra Woodley of the University of Louisiana System says UL has cut or merged over 300 academic programs to stay afloat.

Now at stake, news cuts as high as 80 percent.

"We ask you respectfully to help us find that $600 million so that we can implement those plans that we're so proud of," said Dr. Woodley.

Woodley and the presidents of the state's three other college systems exchanged dialogue with the Senate Finance Committee Thursday.

"Where do you propose that money comes from?" asked Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge.

"I don't really know how to tell you which method is the best. All I can say is we badly need last year's funding," answered Dr. Woodley.

As university heads spoke to the committee, Gov. Jindal talked to the press elsewhere in the Capitol Building.

The governor said Monday to the legislature that his budget plan prioritizes higher education.

When asked Wednesday if his plan could bring some of the lost higher ed jobs back, Gov. Jindal told 9News "I am not simply for throwing money at any state agency and simply restoring jobs that we may not need."

Any solution to stopping potential higher ed cuts could start coming to light in the coming days. Next week, Governor Jindal says he expects to see budget bills move out of the House and Senate committees.

"When we talk about $600 million. It's not $600 million in costs to operate institutions. It's $600 million worth of investment in the people of Louisiana. Can we afford to miss this opportunity?" asked Dr. Monty Sullivan, President of LCTCS.

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