La. community college system to restructure as cost-saving measure

River Parishes Community College (Source: WAFB)
River Parishes Community College (Source: WAFB)

(WAFB) - The state's community college system is realigning eight of its campuses, reassigning them to different schools in an attempt to save money.

Over the past decade, community college leaders have watched as financial support from the state has diminished.

"At some point, we will reach a level where the resources are simply not there," said Monty Sullivan, the president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System.

In 1999, state funding made up about 85 percent of the budget for technical colleges and 75 percent for community colleges. Now, after 16 budget cuts over eight years, state funding is making up less of the budget. To make up the difference, many schools turned to tuition increases, but as those prices rose, enrollment slumped.

Now, many of the system's more rural campuses are struggling financially, with lower enrollment generating less funding. By reassigning those campuses, they hope to keep those campuses alive. The Westside campus in Plaquemine is one of those on the list. It will be transferred from the Baton Rouge Community College to the River Parishes Community College based in Gonzales.

"That institution receiving the campus has the greater ability to invest long-term," Sullivan said. "The likelihood is we're going to see additional programming, additions offering at those campuses that perhaps we could not sustain today."

System leaders say the change will allow them to streamline administrative costs, because they can group together a bunch of campuses focused on a single skill-set, like those related to the petrochemical industry.

"Our services related to those industries are creating the workers to operate those plants," said Dale Doty, the chancellor of the River Parishes Community College.

He said he is considering introducing more general education courses at his new Plaquemine campus. "Students are not going to go very far to take a class if they have an option, they'll got to the closest place," Doty said.

The full list of realignments is as follows:

  • South Central Louisiana Technical College's Reserve Campus is realigned with the River Parishes Community College
  • The South Central Louisiana Technical College's Lafourche Campus is realigned with Fletcher Technical Community College.
  • South Central Louisiana Technical College's Young Memorial Campus is being realigned with the South Louisiana Community College
  • Fletcher Technical Community College's Louisiana Marine Petroleum Institute is being realigned with South Louisiana's Community College
  • Northwest Louisiana's Technical College's Natchitoches Campus is being realigned with Central Louisiana Technical Community College
  • Northwest Louisiana Technical College's Sabine Valley Campus is being realigned with Central Louisiana Technical Community College
  • Central Louisiana Technical Community College's Oakdale Campus is being realigned with SOWELA Technical Community College
  • Baton Rouge Community College's Westside Campus is being realigned with the River Parishes Community College

But even with these changes, the future remains rocky. More state budget shortfalls are forecasted for next year.

"We are challenged, there's no question about it. We are all optimistic about where this state is headed, but we also have to be, to some extent, realistic and make decisions that are responsible decision," Sullivan said.

No campuses will be closed as part of the plan. However, a handful of people - mainly administrative workers - could be let go, according to a spokesman for the system.

The changes take effect on July 1.

Copyright 2017 WAFB. All rights reserved.