McNeese president releases budget reduction proposal - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

McNeese president releases budget reduction proposal

The following is a news release from McNeese State University:

McNeese State University is facing a reduction in state funding of $9.2 million, and possibly more, for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2011. The drop in state funds is due primarily to a loss of federal stimulus funds allocated to higher education.

Since August, McNeese budget managers, department supervisors and institutional review committees have carefully analyzed the organization and operations of the university and delivered recommendations to cut costs and address the budget shortfall, Dr. Philip C. Williams, McNeese president, said.

After reviewing all of the data and recommendations, Williams has proposed a number of changes to the organization and operations of the university to address the $9.2 million budget reduction and plans to meet additional possible cuts.

Using a combination of tuition increases, a reduction in the total number of employees and savings identified through the institutional review process, McNeese officials hope to avoid employee furloughs.

In a memo to the campus, Williams said under the terms of the LaGRAD Act, McNeese would increase tuition by an additional 10 percent for fiscal year 2011-2012. Combined with a current year tuition increase, Williams projects the additional tuition will make up $5.6 million of the shortfall.

"The LaGRAD Act also allows universities to carry forward any reserves from current year savings," Williams said. "This is a new, and very important, budget option. Faculty, staff and students participating on a Student Experience Committee, an Academic Affairs Committee and a Business Operations Committee identified additional budget reductions through administrative reorganizations, program eliminations and other budget efficiencies."

Combined with savings from an early retirement incentive program, Williams says the university can meet the additional $3.6 million in cuts without sacrificing the quality of academic instruction and loss of critical student services.

An early retirement incentive was one strategy McNeese adopted to reduce the overall number of employees in the operating budget.

Tenured faculty members, including those serving in administrative positions, were eligible to participate in the plan if they qualified for retirement according to the Teacher's Retirement System of Louisiana or the Louisiana State Employees Retirement System retirement rules.

Eligible faculty who chose to participate in the plan will receive a one-time monetary incentive equal to 50 percent of their actual nine-month base salary, excluding benefits, up to $50,000. These employees will voluntarily retire or resign from McNeese no later than June 30, 2011, and they are responsible for all related taxes that result from the incentive compensation.

Under the incentive plan approved by the University of Louisiana System, these vacant positions will not be filled at a salary higher than the incumbent and the position may be eliminated. Under ULS policy, a three-year cost savings must be realized.

According to Dr. Jeanne Daboval, McNeese provost and vice president of academic affairs, fewer than 10 of the 20 retiring faculty positions will be filled.

Daboval said there could be additional faculty vacancies or other non-teaching McNeese employees that retire or resign within the next 12-18 months that will result in additional personnel reductions.

Recently, the Board of Regents told Louisiana public universities to plan for an even larger budget cut. "It could range as high as 35 percent of current appropriations," Williams told the McNeese faculty and staff. This would raise the budget cut from $9.2 million to approximately $11.3 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2011.

In order to meet an even larger budget cut, Williams said the Institutional Review and Budget Reduction exercises identified additional savings that can be achieved through administrative reorganization and program reduction. The majority of these changes would not be fully implemented until July 1, 2011.

  • A reduction in the number of senior administrative officials;
  • Aligning student recruitment, enrollment and retention within a new subdivision of Strategic Enrollment and Student Affairs;
  • Creating an "Office of the President" to consolidate and coordinate external and internal university communications, marketing, information technology and intercollegiate athletics and to include a Chief Diversity Officer;
  • Replacement of only a fraction of the faculty choosing to retire under the incentive program and filling necessary positions at a lower salary;
  • Eliminating programs having little or no student interest and consolidating academic degree programs into concentrations in some cases.

A total of four degree programs with low enrollment and few graduates will be eliminated and seven degree programs will become concentrations. "Students will still have the ability to become highly qualified and certified teachers in the programs we are converting to concentrations," Daboval explained.  "Moving these into the primary subject area will result in better prepared students in these content areas and it is a more efficient use of faculty resources," she said.

"Essentially we are eliminating programs from our degree inventory but keeping options for students to become certified in high demand areas," Daboval said. 

The changes will be effective for the fall semester. "If a student wants to teach one of these courses at the junior high or high school level, they will major in the content area, such as biology, and have a concentration in biology education," she explained.

"Our goal is to do what is necessary to prevent a detrimental impact on students and classroom instruction. The cuts have made class and lab sizes larger and some class sections are offered less frequently," Daboval said.

Further deep cuts to the McNeese budget may result in employee furloughs. Williams will form an Employee Furlough Policy Committee this spring to recommend a scaled furlough policy.

"I will recommend that the committee design the scale in a manner that will require the president to bear the highest percentage furlough of any employee," he said. "Employee furloughs would be used only if absolutely necessary to balance the budget." 

Since fall 2008, funds McNeese receives through state appropriations have been cut over $8 million. The latest cut was in October when $431,131 was cut from the current operating budget. According to Candace Townsend, McNeese director of public information and communications, a cost containment plan was implemented in 2008 and possible cuts were considered in planning the 2009-2010 budget.

"Over the past 18 months, operating budget reductions have been made in all areas including reducing support for athletics, professional services and other non-mission critical auxiliaries," Townsend said. "Non-essential travel has been eliminated and purchases of equipment, supplies, library books and other operating services have been postponed and many vacant full-time positions have not been filled."

Employee merit raises were put on hold last June to avoid employee layoffs and furloughs, Townsend added.

PROPOSED McNEESE ACADEMIC PROGRAM ELIMINATIONS AND CONSOLIDATIONS

  1.  Proposed eliminations, to become effective Fall 2011
    1. B.A. degree in communication studies
    2. B.S. degree in environmental science education
    3. B.S. degree in family and consumer sciences education
    4. B.S. degree in speech education
  1. Proposed program consolidations, to become effective Fall 2011
    1. Eliminate the B.S. degree in biology education, grades 6-12, and make it a concentration in the biological sciences program
    2. Eliminate the B.S. degree in chemistry education, grades 6-12, and make it a concentration in the chemistry program
    3. Eliminate the B.S. degree in agricultural education, grades 6-12, and make it a concentration in the agricultural sciences program
    4. Eliminate the B.S. degree in math education, grades 6-12, and make it a concentration in a renamed mathematical sciences program with concentrations in mathematics, statistics and mathematics education
    5. Eliminate the B.A. in English education, grades 6-12, and make it a concentration in the English program
    6. Eliminate the B.A. in foreign languages education, grades 6-12, and make it a concentration in the foreign languages program

Last year, McNeese consolidated two music programs and the bachelor's degrees in vocal and instrumental music and the art education concentration were recommended for consolidation earlier this year.

Sidebar McNeese Economic Impact Facts:

An economic impact report prepared for the University of Louisiana System shows that McNeese State University has a $335 million annual economic impact to Louisiana. McNeese employees contribute $55 million directly to the economy, while McNeese retirees spend an additional $11 million annually. McNeese students spend $145 million in areas such as housing, food, entertainment, telecommunications and transportation, while visitors to McNeese events contribute $47 million.

The report also states:

  • Approximately one-third of the engineers working in the local petrochemical industry are McNeese graduates.
  • Nearly 80 percent of all nurses working in Lake Charles and the surrounding communities are McNeese graduates.
  • School districts in the five-parish area rank among the state's top 10 districts in high school graduation rates and more than 70 percent of the educators in the five-parish area earned a degree from McNeese.
  • Nearly 70 percent of the public four-year college degrees earned by residents of Southwest Louisiana come from McNeese.
  • Over the past 10 years, close to 13,000 students have graduated from McNeese and added $640 million to Louisiana's economy.
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