Why The Southern University System Might Lay Off Hundreds


Louisiana’s public colleges and universities have submitted plans to Gov. John Bel Edwards‘ budget staff detailing how they would deal with very deep midyear financial cuts over the next few months if forced.

Edwards’ chief budget architect, Jay Dardenne, warned the state’s higher education officials last week that they would have to cut $131 million out of their budget before June 30 if the Louisiana Legislature doesn’t agree to raise some taxes over the next two months.

The state has to fill an overall budget hole of $700 million to $750 million during that time period, and the governor is proposing tax hikes as well as cuts as part of his solution. The $131 million in higher education reductions would become a reality if no taxes are raised, according to Dardenne.

That cut to higher education is large enough to fundamentally alter how colleges and universities operate in the state. To put that figure in perspective, the entire Southern University system only receives –- through federal money, state allocations and tuition — $129.5 million annually.

In other words, Dardenne is asking for Louisiana’s colleges and universities to prepare to cut a piece of higher education’s funding that is equivalent to cutting the entire Southern University system. And they would have just a few months to do it.

On Monday evening (Jan. 26), higher education leaders responded by outlining what type of actions they would have to take to absorb that type of reduction. The amount of each university system’s cut was determined by how much funding they get from the state. Systems that get a larger proportion of funding from the state, such as LSU, were asked by Dardenne to prepare for a larger cut.

Here are some highlights of how each higher education system responded:

LSU system – $65 million cut, See the full plan for reductions here 

  • The Baton Rouge campus would implement a student fee of up to $690 in the middle of the semester. A $690 fee would completely cover the entire budget deficit at the Baton Rouge campus, so it is unlikely to go that high — but it would still be significant.
  • The LSU Medical School would have to close undergraduate programs in areas like medical lab technology, dental hygiene, dental lab technology and a B.S. nursing program.
  • The agricultural center would declare financial exigency — essentially academic bankruptcy — so it could layoff as much staff as possible and furlough the employees that remain.
  • The Baton Rouge campus would also implement an enrollment cap in future years that is lower than the number of students on campus now. The enrollment cap would be enforced through higher admission standards. In total, LSU would anticipate losing 3,000 students.
  • Pennington Biomedical Center would be forced to return grant money it had already been awarded because it would not have enough staff or resources to carry forth with its research projects.

University of Louisiana system – $38 million cut, See the full plan for reductions here

  • Some of the system’s institutions would have to declare financial exigency, which is roughly equivalent to academic bankruptcy.
  • Non-tenured faculty, classified staff and non-classified staff would be furloughed.
  • Some schools would risk loss of accreditation.
  • Faculty and staff would have to forego salary increases.
  • The only transfer students accepted would be those associated with athletics.


Southern University system – $4.6 million cut, See the full plan for reductions here

  • Twenty-seven faculty members at the Southern University Law Center would be laid off in the middle of the semester, causing some classes to be canceled.
  • The law school would stop paying certain fees and dues needed for accreditation.
  • Southern University in New Orleans (SUNO) would lay off 50 percent of its adjunct faculty in the middle of the semester.
  • All non-tenured faculty and staff making over $30,000 annually at Southern’s main campus in Baton Rouge would have to take 19 furlough days.
  • Summer school would be cancelled.

Louisiana Community and Technical College System – $20.2 million cut, See the plan for reductions here 

  • Lay off 1,200 employees statewide starting March 15 through at least June 30.