Higher education leaders fight against cuts at State Capitol

Higher education leaders fight against cuts at State Capitol

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Higher education leaders say that the state's public colleges and universities will still be making $71 million in cuts even if lawmakers pass all the tax raises that Governor John Bel Edwards is proposing.

They said that those cuts are in a best case scenario, and in a worst case scenario, meaning lawmakers do nothing, it would be $232 million in cuts.

Louisiana's higher education crisis attracted the attention of one of the state's best-known political commentators as James Carville sat in a House committee Wednesday. He came to the Capitol backing higher education leaders like LSU president f. King Alexander.

The higher education leaders again made their pitch to lawmakers to avoid drastic cuts to their colleges and universities.

Joseph Rallo, the state's higher education commissioner, told lawmakers colleges and universities have been severely cut over the past five years.

"Time is not our friend. Without clarity and certainty about the severity of these cuts and approval of new sources of revenue, institutional responses will have to be implemented affecting students faculty, staff  and the communities in which our institutions are located," Rallo said.

"This is not some kid yelling wolf. This is a real crisis that we're faced with and will have to deal with everyday," Carville said. "A lot of people in the legislature think, 'oh, it will always be open.' People in the state say, 'oh, I don't worry about it, LSU will be there.' You should worry about it."

Higher education leaders also discussed the dire situation of the TOPS scholarship program, which is $28 million short of being fully funded.

Copyright 2016 WAFB. All rights reserved.