New McNeese president addresses faculty

The following is a news release from McNeese State University:

In his first official address to university faculty, new McNeese President Dr. Philip C. Williams described his personal philosophies, explained the upcoming budget "Cliff Year" and ways the university will make up the loss of $9.2 million in state funding, and encouraged the faculty to remain optimistic about the future.

"Esse quam videri, 'To be rather than to seem,' and 'Praise publicly. Reprove privately' are two of the maxims I try to live by," Williams said.

He praised the work of retired McNeese President Dr. Robert Hebert and his team for balancing the 2010-2011 budget without employee layoffs or furloughs, despite an unprecedented $2.2 million cut at the end of the last fiscal year. "I have inherited an extremely well-managed university.

"However, the 'Cliff Year' is coming," he said, "and we must prepare for additional mid-year cuts or mandated expense increases." McNeese will lose $9.2 million in state funding for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2011, due to the loss of federal stimulus funds used to shore up higher education budgets for the past two years.

Williams said the best scenario to close the $9.2 million fund reduction would come from a combination of tuition increases, savings from a voluntary early retirement incentive and an institution-wide program review. "The GRAD Act allows universities to raise tuition by 10 percent this year and next year. If we have stable enrollment, that self-generated revenue combined with the early retirement savings, could account for nearly $6.6 million," Williams said.

The remainder will have to come from enrollment increases and the institutional review. The review will closely examine all academic and non-academic programs and eliminate duplicated programs and services in addition to finding new ways to operate more efficiently. If savings from enrollment increases and the institutional review do not close the $2.6 million gap, Williams said McNeese will have to look at reorganization of administrative units, furloughs and layoffs.

"It is my sincere hope that if we all do the necessary work of finding substantial savings everywhere we can, then we will avoid the last resort of furloughs and layoffs," he said.

The institutional review must be completed by Nov. 3 in order for McNeese officials to present the findings to the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors at its Dec. 3 meeting.

Williams encouraged the faculty to embrace two of his personal philosophies, "We are all recruiters" and "Every encounter with a student is a retention opportunity." "Increasing enrollment and improving retention have major budget implications," he said.

Dr. Jeanne Daboval, McNeese provost and vice president of academic affairs, explained the major components of the GRAD Act and how it will impact the McNeese budget, enrollment and instruction.

The GRAD (Granting Resources and Autonomy for Diplomas) Act is an important piece of legislation passed during the recent legislative session. "It gives colleges and universities the ability to increase tuition in exchange for a commitment to meet clearly defined statewide performance goals," Daboval said. McNeese has increased tuition by 10 percent this fall and plans to increase tuition by another 10 percent for fall 2011.

She told the faculty, "Beginning this fiscal year, the GRAD Act allows colleges and universities to carry over operating funds to the next fiscal year. In other words, the more we save in this year's budget, the smaller the deficit will be on July 1, 2011."

Daboval said that the $9.2 million reduction in state funding for the 2011-2012 McNeese budget represents approximately 14 percent of the total McNeese operating budget.

"This is due to a loss in funds from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). For two consecutive fiscal years, the state of Louisiana has used ARRA funds as part of the budget allocated to state colleges and universities. These ARRA funds are non-recurring and will not be available after this 2010-2011 fiscal year," Daboval said.

Under the GRAD Act, Louisiana public universities will be required to phase in increased admission standards, eliminate programs with low enrollment, utilize technology for distance learning and phase out remedial courses and associate degree programs. Admission requirements for McNeese will increase beginning with the spring 2011 semester.

Performance objectives are aimed at improving college retention and completion rates and at meeting the state's current and future workforce and economic development needs.

Daboval suggested that the faculty use the requirements of the GRAD Act and the institutional review to "not only identify ways to be more efficient, but to also see opportunities that will make McNeese stronger and more competitive."

Each year at the opening of the general faculty meeting, Daboval recognizes academic programs that successfully attained accreditation or re-accreditation the previous year and identifies accreditation visits for the current year.

In 2009-2010, all of the programs in the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology achieved accreditation or re-accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

Daboval said, "The Radiologic Sciences program received an exemplary review from the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JCERT)."

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) will review all bachelor's, master's and specialist programs in the Burton College of Education this fall.