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President Nick J. Bruno

2013 Dear Colleagues E-mails

December 17, 2013
Announcement about Employee Luncheon and Employee Service Awards

A message to ULM faculty and staff from ULM President Nick J. Bruno

Dear Colleagues,

On Tuesday, January 7, 2014, at 11:30 a.m., please join Linda and me for the Faculty/Staff Luncheon that will be held in the SUB Ballroom.

The luncheon will be in conjunction with the Employee Service Recognition presentations that are given to employees for specific years of service to the university.

Once again, The Cattlemen’s Association has graciously agreed to provide the food.

Please mark your calendars appropriately, and I look forward to seeing you on January 7, 2014.

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

Sincerely,

Dr. Nick J. Bruno
President


 

December 12, 2013
Information about 2014 ULM Foundation Awards for Excellence

A message to ULM faculty and staff from ULM President Nick J. Bruno

Dear Colleagues,

It is time once again to begin the nomination process for the 2014 Foundation Awards for Excellence.

Our ULM Foundation makes this program possible with private funds, and allows us to recognize excellence in our faculty and staff in six major areas:

• Faculty Creative/Artistic Activity
• Faculty Teaching
• Faculty Research
• Service by Faculty
• Service by Unclassified Staff
• Service by Classified Staff

The six recipients will be recognized during Fall 2014 University Week. Each person will receive a plaque and a one-time salary supplement less applicable deductions (Faculty and Unclassified Staff - $3,000 each and Classified Staff – 10% of their base annual salary not to exceed $3,000).

The guidelines for the awards are available here

Please review the guidelines carefully for complete instructions. Nominations are due by January 31, 2014.

I urge your participation.

Sincerely,

Dr. Nick J. Bruno
President


 

November 1, 2013
Academic Reorganization and Layoffs

A message to ULM faculty and staff from ULM President Nick J. Bruno

Dear Colleagues,

This is not the kind of news that I wish to bring to you today, but as we all understand, higher education in Louisiana has continued to be negatively impacted by declining State support.

With that brings difficult decisions that I do not take lightly as to its impact on those employees that are directly affected and upon those who will be asked again to do more.

Today, I am announcing my decision to eliminate an additional 25 positions by January 1, 2014.

Within the 25 positions, 19 are currently filled positions and six will be eliminated through retirements and vacant positions that will not be filled. The completion of the implementation of the reorgnization will take place over three years.

Career counseling will be available for those impacted by this work force reduction.

We will also announce the reorganization of the university's five colleges, which will be consolidated into three, becoming the College of Arts, Education and Sciences; the College of Health and Pharmaceutical Sciences; and the College of Business and Social Sciences.

The Graduate School remains unchanged.

You may wish to view the press release which has been sent to the media.

The vice presidents and deans have worked diligently, to develop a plan that adheres to our Strategic Plan while considering how we will maintain the excellence that is ULM.

I alone have made this decision and I am saddened to have to do so.

However, as President of ULM, it is my duty to ensure the stability and progress of the university and I will continue to do that to the best of my ability.

Sincerely,

Dr. Nick J. Bruno
President


 

October 30, 2013
Statement about early release of reorganizationa and layoff information

A message to ULM faculty and staff from ULM President Nick J. Bruno

Dear Colleagues,

I apologize that news about the anticipated reduction in workforce at ULM was publicized prior to my personally communicating details. You will be provided all information about a reduction in workforce prior to any official release to the media.

I realize the anxiety these actions have had on us all, and it has been my wish that communications regarding this difficult decision be handled in a very sensitive and professional manner. 

Vice Presidents will be talking with their respective departments today to answer questions and give preliminary information. A detailed plan of reorganization will be released to you on Friday morning.

Thank you for your patience and support through this time of difficult decisions.

Thank You,

Dr. Nick J. Bruno
President


 

October 9, 2013
Notice to campus about layoffs

A message to ULM faculty and staff from ULM President Nick J. Bruno

Dear Colleagues,

This is to inform you that the following statement will be released to the public this morning.

I am very saddened that I am forced to make decisions such as this one and those which will follow must be made.

However, as I have continued to inform you the current funding of our operations are supplemented by restricted funds and cannot be sustained.

I continue to hope and pray that a funding solution which will stabilize the State’s funding of Louisiana’s higher education including ULM is found and further reductions in State funds do not occur.

Reduction of staff at ULM caused by budget cuts

Due to recurring budget cuts over the last five years, and the need to lessen its dependency on restricted funds, the University of Louisiana at Monroe announces a reduction in workforce. Five administrative staff positions were eliminated today and University officials could announce additional cuts of up to 30 positions for the beginning of 2014.

University President Dr. Nick J. Bruno originally informed faculty and staff of a plan to trim $1.5 million in staff positions in his State of the University address August 15, 2013.

“This is something that no one desires,” Bruno said this morning. “We are proud of our faculty and staff and their dedication to the students through all of these challenges.”

Over the last three years, ULM reduced the number of senior administrative staff and cut operational costs to meet challenges forced by less state funding.

Dr. Nick J. Bruno
President


 

July 11, 2013
2013-2014 FY Budget Update

A message to ULM faculty and staff from ULM President Nick J. Bruno

Dear Colleagues,

This is to provide you with some general information regarding our 2014 budget. This year's budget is quite interesting—there are several factors that make it difficult to provide definitive information at this time. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to provide you with the information we have currently.

• Our total budget is down from the mid-year amount by $1,101,543. 
• Estimates show our mandated costs will increase by approximately $900,000. 
• The combined impact of our 2014 resources is a decrease of approximately $2,000,000.

Below are several factors that could further impact our budget this year both positively and negatively. The 2014 budget at this time is $71,678,050. This number is comprised of:

• $14,256,559 from State General Funds
• $10,250,936 from Overcollections Fund
• $1,855,351 from Statutory Dedications
• $45,315,204 Self-Generated (tuition and fees)

The self-generated amount is calculated based upon the number of students that were registered for the 2012-2013 academic year, as if they were enrolled under the tuition and fee rates for the 2013-2014 academic year.

For 2014, the State General Fund dollars have been partially replaced with funds from the Overcollections Fund. This fund's revenue sources vary. These sources include:

• Property Sales 
• FEMA Reimbursement
• Lease Payments for Hospitals 
• Undesignated Fund Balances
• Tax amnesty collections

The Overcollections Fund is a one-time source that may or may not be available. Depending upon whether or not the funds are collected, the budget may change. At this time, it is impossible to predict whether these projections will occur or what portion of them we can expect. For the purpose of our budgeting, we are assuming all such funds will be collected this fiscal year.

Another factor that we cannot definitively predict at this time is our enrollment. While our freshman class looks to be larger than last year's class, we cannot be certain of the exact status of our returning students. For every 100 additional students, that translates to approximately $600,000 in tuition and fees, making the exact count an important and unpredictable factor. I am optimistic that we will maintain our student population at least equal to last fall and possibly show some growth.

Legislation allowing us the authority to increase tuition for those students who are enrolled in online programs did pass; however, I was informed yesterday by UL System officials that this increase should not be implemented until spring.

As you can see, the 2014 budget will be different from any we have experienced in the past due to the sources and uncertainty of several factors critical to our budget preparation.

We must adapt to ensure ULM is fiscally sound during these uncertain times. For now, we will continue to review the structure of the university to be certain we protect the academic core of our institution. For example, we will soon issue a Request for Proposal to outsource our student health center. The goals are to save money and provide expanded services to our students and entire campus community. Other areas will be explored for similar action.

We must continue to explore creative new programs, collaborations, and concentrations that will attract more students to ULM. We also must strive to improve retention rates, further increasing our enrollment. We will continue to review the viability of all academic offerings.

In closing, I realize the continuing stress these budget issues impose on each of you. However, according to the UL System's analysis of financial strength, ULM's financial condition is not currently at risk despite the recurring costs over the last five years.

I remain optimistic that ULM is moving in the right direction and will continue to be a university that is vital to our state and region. As always, we strive to be a university of choice for students who are seeking an excellent academic experience.

I will keep you posted on our progress and thank you for your commitment to our university and our students.

Sincerely,

Dr. Nick J. Bruno
President


 

July 1, 2013
Update on recent ULM's achievements: new Athletic Director, Miss Louisiana and ULM Fishing Team

A message to ULM faculty and staff from ULM President Nick J. Bruno

Dear Colleagues,

Our university continues to garner a significant amount of positive news. Jaden Leach, a ULM junior political science major, was named Miss Louisiana at the state pageant this weekend. She is the fourth ULM student in the past five years to win the crown. In addition, Miss ULM Amy Matherne won the talent portion of the competition, and Lauren Ford finished in the top 10.

Our fishing team, featured in Time Magazine, finished first in the nation in the Association of Collegiate Anglers School of the Year Standings. ULM's incoming freshmen class is the best yet with a preliminary average GPA of 3.38 and an average ACT of 22.32.

ULM continues to make strides. Following a thorough search process led by CarrSports Consulting LLC, ULM's Athletic Director Search Committee selected three outstanding candidates.

After much consideration, I have chosen Brian Wickstrom. Brian has relevant experience and possesses a strong record of effective fund raising. In addition, he was able to convey a vision for our athletic program that is consistent with what I envision for ULM. His enthusiasm and personality are contagious, which will allow him to connect with all of our constituents.

Brian has worked as the Director of Athletics for the University of California, Riverside since July 2011. He has served in various roles in athletics departments across the country since 1998. He earned a Master of Sports Administration from Ohio University in 1999 and a Doctor of Education/Educational Leadership from Eastern Michigan University in 2006.

Brian will be officially introduced tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. in the Media Room, located on the sixth floor. I know you will join me in welcoming him to his new home at ULM.

Lastly, I hope to provide you with a budget update before we break for the July 4th holiday.

Have a great week.

Sincerely,

Dr. Nick J. Bruno
President


 

May 16, 2013
Update on Strategic Planning, Budget/Legislative sessions and Athletic Director Search

A message to ULM faculty and staff from ULM President Nick J. Bruno

Dear Colleagues,

During my “Coffee with the President” sessions, which I felt were very positive, participants provided me with ideas that I will certainly share with appropriate staff for consideration. In addition, I will submit several of these suggestions to the Strategic Planning Committee.

Of course, the matter of the budget was a recurring theme throughout our discussions. I am sure you have been following the latest legislative actions, which have indicated some positive news for higher education.

To view a one-page summary of ULM's current financial challenges, please visit:

ulm.edu/president/documents/FY14-budget-forecast.pdf [New Link Here

I have also prepared responses to the most frequently asked questions from the university community over the last two weeks. During my “Coffee with the President” sessions, which I found to be very positive, participants asked if they could correspond with their elected officials.

As citizens you have the right to communicate with your elected officials.  We cannot “lobby,” but legislators need to hear your stories. As I listened to you, I heard your concerns regarding the futures of your careers, your concern for your children, and of course, the question of stability in higher education. These stories and your concerns can certainly be shared.

Our elected officials need to hear the challenges you are facing personally, as well as those you have regarding higher education.  Legislators have recognized your continued commitment and dedication to educating Louisiana’s future workforce and leaders. However, they may not have heard your personal concerns. You need to decide if you wish to share these with them.  

In order to allow for more inclusion, we have added an additional Strategic Planning Community Stakeholder meeting at 5:30 p.m., on Tuesday, May 21, at the West Monroe Convention Center, located at 901 Ridge Avenue

Lastly, several university employees have requested updates on the status of the Athletic Director Search. The Athletic Director Search web site contains the position announcement, job description, and search timeline.

To view the site, please visit: ulm.edu/adsearch 

Thank you all for your continued commitment, despite the difficult fiscal challenges we face.  I am confident that ULM will continue to move forward, meet these challenges, and build upon where we are today. 

 

Sincerely,

Dr. Nick J. Bruno
President


 

May 8, 2013
Reminder of Strategic Planning Meetings and Survey

A message to ULM faculty and staff from ULM President Nick J. Bruno

Dear Colleagues,

If you have not had a chance to attend one of the Strategic Planning meetings, I urge you to do so.

Your input is vital to this process, and you are encouraged to attend any of the below meetings.

Please note we will add one more meeting, which will take place in West Monroe. I will update you once a time, date and location has been determined.

  • Thursday, May 9 - Business Affairs Stakeholder Meeting: 10 a.m. - 11 a.m., SUB Ballroom D 

  • Thursday, May 9 - Community Stakeholder Meeting: 4 p.m. - 5 p.m., Monroe City Council Chambers, 400 Lea Joyner Expressway 

  • Friday, May 10 - Student Affairs Stakeholder Meeting: 10 a.m. - 11 a.m., LIB 651

I also encourage you to complete the strategic planning survey, which is available until Friday, May 10. 

Sincerely,

Dr. Nick J. Bruno
President


 

May 3, 2013
Link to article "CABL: Time for a Reality Check on College Tuition"

A message to ULM faculty and staff from ULM President Nick J. Bruno

Dear Colleagues,

Unfortunately much of the news lately has not be positive regarding higher education's funding issues.

However, I wanted to share this very positive article (below) with you today. It sums up what we have known for sometime. It is positive to see an organization like the Council for A Better Louisiana (CABL) take this very positive position on higher education.

I have also shared this with our legislators and members of our various volunteer boards. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Dr. Nick J. Bruno
President

CABL: Time for a Reality Check on College Tuition
http://host.antaresnet.com/cabl/CABLWire/TheCABLWire.aspx

Let's face it. College tuition in Louisiana has been going up over the last few years and there's not exactly a huge appetite to talk about giving higher education increased flexibility to raise tuition even further. But it's a conversation we need to have in Louisiana and one the public must fully understand. 

First off, CABL doesn't like the notion of raising tuition any more than any one else. In a state like ours, we need all the access possible to ensure every student has the opportunity to pursue a postsecondary education credential of their choice. 

But even less than we like tuition increases, we don't want to have a postsecondary education system that doesn't meet our needs. That could be where we're headed. Beyond that, we'd like to think that we could aspire to having some truly great public universities in our state. But that's looking more and more like a pipedream. 

Consider a couple of points worth noting: 

• Higher education funding from the state has been on the decline for the last five years and the reduction now totals more than 30%.There's no reason to think the next couple of years will be any different. 
• Despite tuition increases, total funding for higher education in Louisiana – counting both tuition and direct state support – is the second-lowest in the south. 
• Faculty salaries, which are regularly criticized as being too high, are actually third- lowest in the south and nearly $10,000 below the southern regional average. 
• For the last couple of years, tuition increases have basically been used dollar-for-dollar to offset corresponding cuts in state support. 
• But even with that, mandated costs such as health care and retirement have risen by almost $125 million over the last five years. 

Added to all of that, the current fiscal situation in the state is looking all the more dire as lawmakers try to remove half-a-billion non-recurring dollars from the budget. That would have a huge impact on higher education if that revenue was not somehow replaced. 

That's why we are having a serious debate about giving the higher education management boards more flexibility to set tuition rates instead of leaving it in the political venue of the Legislature. And, by the way, Louisiana is the only state in the country that requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to raise tuition. That is something CABL believes we need to change. 

We are well aware of the arguments against it. 

1. Tuition costs have already gone up the last few years. Yes they have, but between the cuts and the rise in mandated costs, higher education is still moving backwards. And whether we like to talk about tuition increases or not, tuition in Louisiana is still the second-lowest in the southern region. In fact, tuition at LSU is 30% below the average of its peers and, while Louisiana Tech is the closest to its peers, it's still more than 13% behind. 

2. It will impact TOPS. Yes, it will if we do nothing about TOPS. At some point we are going to have to come to grips with the fact that Louisiana has flipped its funding model upside down. The state used to provide most of the support to higher education with students picking up a much smaller portion of the tab. But we don't do that anymore. Our model now says if you want to go to a university in Louisiana, our state will provide some support, but tuition and fees are going to have to pay for most of it. TOPS will never go away, nor should it, but it continues to be an expensive program for the state that we will have to make more sustainable if we hope to have even half-way decent schools in Louisiana. 

3. If we increase tuition, they'll just reduce state support to higher education by the same amount. Maybe, but that's ultimately a decision for the Legislature to make. If institutions don't have tuition flexibility, they'll likely get the budget cut anyway and the resources that could preserve quality will just continue to erode. 

The truth is that state policy – for good or bad – is driving higher education into more of a market-driven model. That's just a reality that we are going to have deal with or change. Given that, we need to give our institutions the flexibility to price their product in a way that is still market sensitive, but gives them some resources to maintain and improve quality. Cheap tuition at a crummy school is not exactly a bargain. The last thing we need is for Louisiana to become a state that's home to a lot of crummy schools. 

It wasn't that long ago in political campaigns past where there was talk about strengthening higher education and positioning it to be one of the state's drivers in economic development. There was talk about increasing support for higher education, developing national caliber research departments at our universities and having a nationally competitive flagship university – all to help bolster and modernize our state's economy. 

The recession may have taken the wind out of those sails, but we still need to have a strong vision and purpose for all of higher education. Massachusetts is dealing with the after effects of the recession, too. But in that state a new report called Time to Lead is refocusing attention on postsecondary education. As it says, "Time to Lead asks the people of Massachusetts some basic questions: Is excellence in public higher education important to us? Do we truly need to be national leaders? And if we answer 'yes' to these questions, what will it take for Massachusetts to have one of the top-performing public systems in the nation?" 

It's unfortunate you don't hear much of that discussion in Louisiana these days. We should be raising those same types of questions ourselves and at least articulating a vision of what our state aspires toward. But we won't even have much of a higher education system to build upon if we don't figure out a way to get appropriate resources to our community and technical colleges and universities. Providing them tuition flexibility is one tool we can give our higher education leaders to help them manage through an increasingly serious situation at a most critical time. 

Postsecondary education is too important to Louisiana to allow it to sink into a mediocrity from which we might never recover.


 

April 16, 2013
Hiring and Spending Freeze for Remainder of 2013 FY

A message to ULM faculty and staff from ULM President Nick J. Bruno

Dear Colleagues,

As has been the practice over the last several years, I have asked the vice presidents to implement a hiring and spending freeze for the duration of this fiscal year.

Advertising for faculty positions for the fall term may proceed with approval from the appropriate dean and the vice president for academic affairs.

In addition, those supply and other essential items for clinical programs will not be impacted, but will require the appropriate vice president’s approval.

This does not apply to those departments funded through 2, 3 and 8 accounts (restricted, auxiliary and agency funds), however, these should also be utilized very conservatively. 

This action allows us to positively position ourselves to better address year-end demands. I appreciate your support and regret we are forced to take these actions. 

Sincerely,

Dr. Nick J. Bruno
President


 

April 9, 2013
Info about Strategic Planning session

A message to ULM faculty and staff from ULM President Nick J. Bruno

Dear Colleagues and Students,

As you may have heard, we are developing a new strategic plan for our university. As part of that plan, I ask you to please visit ulm.edu/strategicplanning

Click on questionnaires, and respond to the applicable Survey 1 questions. In addition, please respond to the questions in Survey 2. Provide your feedback regarding the university’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). Your thoughts will allow us to develop our SWOT analysis, which is critical to our strategic planning. 

I urge your participation, as your contributions are vital to this process. Your opinions will help us formulate our university’s direction during the next five years.

As always, your views are appreciated and are not limited to these surveys. Please feel free to share your ideas via e-mail at: strategicplanning@ulm.edu

Thank you so much for your time and your contributions to ULM. 

Sincerely,

Dr. Nick J. Bruno
President


 

April 3, 2013
Update on 2014 Budget Cuts and Legislative session

A message to ULM faculty and staff from ULM President Nick J. Bruno

Dear Colleagues,

 

I recently received preliminary information from the University of Louisiana System regarding budget information for the upcoming fiscal year. Last week, the university presidents met with UL System President Dr. Sandra Woodley and Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Jim Purcell to discuss a variety of issues, including budget challenges.

At this time, the governor's budget, beginning July 1, 2013, reflects a reduction of $1,039,071 for ULM. This reduction incorporates the expected increase in tuition of 10% over the year's current rate. In other words—as has been the case over the last several years—while our tuition increases, state reductions have exceeded those additional funds.

In addition, the expected increase in our employee benefits is estimated at $936,287. We will need to address a total reduction of current year funds of approximately $1,975,358. Please know this amount will most likely change as the session progresses.

The governor's budget includes significant funds for higher education that are derived from what has been referred to as "one-time" and "contingency" funds. There are a number of legislators who are opposed to this form of funding.

There is over $489 million in the budget for higher education, which is attributable to the aforementioned funding sources. Therefore, as it is currently proposed, if those funds are not included, the reductions would be taken from higher education.

In the event none of these funds are included, higher education could sustain a 19% reduction. I suspect this will not occur, since a cut of that amount would be unthinkable. The Board of Regents is seeking to spread funds across other budgets so that the reductions are not absorbed by higher education alone.

Since the Legislative session has not yet begun, it is too early to speculate. I will be attending the House Appropriations Committee meeting tomorrow morning, and I will be prepared to discuss our position and answer any questions if called upon.

ULM will continue to move forward and address issues as we confront them. Later this month, we will begin our Strategic Planning process, which is very critical at this time in ULM's history. Everyone on campus will be allowed to provide input during this process and will be kept informed of the progress. The final plan will drive whatever actions we must take to address any fiscal challenges we may face.

We are building an outstanding university as the result of your commitment and hard work. Please know that I share our story and achievements at every opportunity.

As the session progresses, we will continue to share our message: ULM is vitally important to our state and to our region. A number of issues will be addressed in the upcoming legislature this session, and while many may be of interest, it is critical we all remain focused on those that may affect higher education.

You can be assured I will keep you apprised as budgetary information regarding ULM becomes available.

Below this letter is a Council for A Better Louisiana (CABL) wire article that provides a very good overview of the issues expected to be addressed regarding higher education in this Legislative session. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions at any time. 

Sincerely,

Dr. Nick J. Bruno
President

 

The CABL Wire for Thursday, March 28, 2013 to Wednesday, April 03, 2013 - HIGHLIGHTS

Higher Education to Get Plenty of Legislative Attention
This year it looks like higher education is going to be getting a lot of attention on a variety of fronts. Some of it might be good, some might not. The higher education budget will be getting more than the usual amount of scrutiny this year, not only because of the level of spending proposed, but also because of where the revenues come from.

It's a little bit complicated, but understanding just what's going on in higher education funding is important. Broadly speaking, last year's state funding to higher education was about $983 million. This year it's $774 million which amounts to a 21% reduction in state support for higher education.

Now, the administration says that reduction is actually being offset primarily from two different sources: 1) reductions in spending at some state hospitals as a result of privatization efforts, and 2) a funding swap where direct state funding for higher education will be replaced by a $75 million increase in tuition.

But even embedded in that are a number of issues that are causing some concern. The first is that of that $774 million in state support for higher education, only $284 million are coming from what is called "state general funds."

Those are the regular recurring funds that operate much of state government. Most of the rest of that – more than $400 million – is coming from other sources that are either contingent on certain things happening, like $47 million in sales of state property, or from various pools of non-recurring dollars. These sources include things like the settlement from a pharmaceutical lawsuit, a FEMA reimbursement and some unexpended revenues from another department.

That's worrisome in and of itself because for the first time ever a significant amount of the state funding for higher education is coming from revenue sources that may or may not materialize next year and some of which might not even come in this year.

While the administration makes a good point that most of that non-recurring money is at least cash in hand right now and saves higher education from further budget cuts, the long-term support for higher education seems to be placed at somewhat of a risk.

Be that as it may, the whole thing is further complicated by the fact that a group of lawmakers in the House of Representatives – the so-called "fiscal hawks" – have expressed great concern over the use of non-recurring and contingent dollars in the budget.

It's likely they will fight to remove it from the higher education spending plan and perhaps from the entire budget. Simply taking it out of higher education support would result in a 19% cut to colleges and universities, so clearly a lot is at stake in that debate.

Whatever happens, it appears higher education will be in for a roller coaster ride this session with an outcome that, at this point, seems uncertain at best. It's hard to see the Legislature actually enacting an additional budget cut to higher education on top of all the others that have occurred over the last five years.

But after years of slashing state government spending, the options for finding additional dollars grow more and more limited. If there's any silver lining, of sorts, all of the non-recurring dollars included in the entire executive budget are going to higher education, so that at least leaves the door open for lawmakers to spread them around to other agencies and replace them with more stable state general fund support.

Other Issues in Higher Education
If the budget battle wasn't enough, there are a couple other looming issues in higher education that could be large. The two chairs of the Legislature's Education Committees are expected to push major legislation to revise the performance funding components now used by higher education.

The details of that are still pending, but they say they want a greater focus on outcomes particularly with regard to graduation and retention rates. They also want to compare the performance of in-state schools with that of peer institutions across the region to help raise the bar.

Louisiana has already made a rather substantial effort toward increasing performance in those and other areas, but as state funding for higher education has continued decline, some university leaders are wondering how much they can continue to improve performance while budgets continue to be cut, class sizes continue to grow, and schools continue to reduce their course offerings in an effort to save money.

If that legislation passes, though, it could open the door to another discussion about tuition flexibility for institutions with the aim of making the pricing of a college education more market-driven and better aligned with the actual costs of operating various degree programs. It could also ignite yet another debate about TOPS and how that program enters into the funding equation.

However all that goes, debate about the role of higher education in our state is healthy, especially if it helps focus attention on the priority it needs to be. With recent announcements about large-scale industrial expansions in Louisiana and new technology firms moving into the state, we should recognize the critical need for a more skilled and educated workforce. We won't be able to provide that without a robust and vibrant postsecondary education system.

We could, perhaps, move closer to that if we had a forward-looking and well-articulated vision of higher education for Louisiana over the next decade. Not one that comes from the universities, but one that expresses what our state leaders want out of higher education and the steps they will take to support it and make it happen. If we can get that alone, it would be an accomplishment.


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