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2017 April 5 - 10:07 am

Louisiana Community, Technical College Campuses To Merge

Repeated Budget Cuts Prod Colleges To Combine Resources

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s community and technical college system is consolidating some of its campuses after years of shrinking state spending on higher education, under restructuring plans approved by the system governing board.

System President Monty Sullivan said the moves are aimed at maintaining access in rural areas, coordinating with workforce needs around the state and responding to financial changes that have the campuses relying more on student tuition and fees than state money.

In a letter notifying faculty and staff of the changes, Sullivan wrote that repeated budget cuts over the last decade have left some colleges “in a precarious financial position, jeopardizing the quality and access essential to our mission.”

“To ensure the long-term future of access and quality two-year college education, we must continue to find ways to maximize the resources we have available to us,” he wrote.

Eight campuses will be shifted to control of other colleges on July 1. For example, the Reserve campus of South Central Louisiana Technical College will become part of nearby River Parishes Community College, and the Natchitoches campus of Northwest Louisiana Technical College will become part of the Central Louisiana Technical Community College.

No campuses will close. Sullivan said he expects some administrative jobs to be cut, as part of the restructuring. But he told reporters: “I do not anticipate major layoffs.”

The Louisiana Community and Technical College System has 13 community colleges and 40 technical college campuses with 130,000 students.

The realignments come after the community and technical college system, like other higher education systems, has been hit with 16 rounds of budget cuts since 2008. The community and technical college system receives $80 million less a year in state financing than it did nine years ago, a nearly 42 percent cut.

Tuition and fee hikes have covered the gap, with students charged double or triple what they paid before the cuts started. But enrollment also has grown, driving up campus operational costs. Sullivan believes there's little room to boost student charges further.

Other changes adopted by the board will create a method for regularly checking on campuses' financial health and academic program viability.

Sullivan said he expects the changes will generate about $10 million more annually for the system, through either savings or new revenue.

Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ melindadeslatte

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