If I Say “Cult” Again, Will You Read This?

Back to the serious stuff today.

Today, the Huffington Post published an article entitled, LSU’s Possible ‘Bankruptcy’: The Bell Tolls for Louisiana HIgher Education about LSU’s financial exigency plans. While the Ind’s LaLaLand called the speculations in my last post “chilling,” I don’t think they’re anywhere near as chilling as what LSU revealed it is staring down fiscally. I’m about sick to my stomach thinking about it, actually. No wonder why F. King Alexander is risking his job. He won’t have a university or a system to run based on the numbers, so he really has nothing to lose because he and all of Louisiana are going to lose by being silent. And as head of the flagship, he may be the only one who could pull it off and get any serious attention.

Revealed in the HuffPo article, LSU complied with a public records request for its financial contingency planning. What it provided was likely what the Regents asked institutions to prepare earlier this year, when the speculated total higher education budget cuts were in the $200-300 million range. So LSU planned for a 35% general fund reduction.

If higher ed were “only” cut by 35%, this is what LSU has to look forward to:

(Readers, you really need to click through. I look at my stats. I’ll know if you did.)

  • LSUS would be at immediate risk of losing SACS accreditation and ability to award federal financial aid.
  • LSUA would risk closure.
  • LSU Ag Centers would eliminate parish based extensions.
  • LSU Baton Rouge would risk losing accreditation for its business and engineering programs and shutter several buildings.
  • Pennington would “mothball” almost half of its research space.
  • LSU Health Sciences Center – New Orleans would close several undergraduate programs and lose $15 million in Medicaid funding.
  • Four schools would declare total exigency–LSUA, LSUE, LSUS and LSU Law–while LSU would declare partial exigency of individual programs.
  • Overall, the system would lose 10,000 students and over 1,400 faculty and staff.

Again, this is the 35% reduction scenario.

This is if we get out of this legislative session with approximately the level of cuts that Jindal’s budget originally said we would have. And many of the additional “revenue” sources are either dead or seriously underestimated.

But we are looking at an 82% reduction in state appropriations. Even if readers don’t go beyond the first two pages, that is enough. And then imagine that times two and a half. And some of these impacts cannot be viewed as simple multipliers because to go much beyond what LSU planned for will lead to a complete multi-institutional collapse.

There is no way any of these institutions can function. At. All.

This is why UL System President Sandra Woodley is afraid that the leges will find just two-thirds of the money and call it a day.

Two-thirds of the money will lead to what LSU has already speculated. What I described above, which is pretty darn catastrophic. At LSU. Not to mention the other systems where we could see some institutional collapses. See again the document I linked above and think about YOUR system and YOUR institution if you aren’t at LSU.

And this places higher ed leaders in a precarious position.

Again, according to Woodley,

Woodley said leaders have struggled with telling the real impact that the deep cuts could have on campuses this fall because of the potential effect it could have on recruiting students and retaining faculty.

“We grapple with it,” Woodley said. “If we really told you what that would be, then it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. You have a lot of damage that’s done to the reputation and credibility of our institutions.”

No one will fire me because yesterday I speculated that Governor Bobby Jindal is running for President because a prophet in a not-so-fringe cultic movement might have told him he would be President. They might look at me funny but that would be it. And I actually didn’t just post that for fun, because it is something I seriously consider, since it means that we can’t negotiate with the man. We need to be courageous enough to stand up to Jindal, force our leges to grow a backbone and a pair, and save our state.

But at the end of the day, why Jindal is doing this is not really the issue at hand.

What is even more important is WHAT Jindal is doing to us.

Let’s see… if it is a straight multiplier, then 10,000 students x 2.4 = 24,000 student loss in the LSU system. LSU Baton Rouge enrolls 30,000 students.

But since we are really talking about a catastrophic failure of our entire higher education system, it could be much worse.

Oh. My. God.

Typical traffic on my blog is around 30-40 hits a day, more when someone picks me up on their blog or Facebook feed. Most traffic I’ve ever gotten in one day before The Cult Post was around 350-400. I think it was the one when I was feeling discouraged that no one cares about higher ed but I’ll fight anyway because it’s the right thing to do. Yesterday I got over 1500 hits.

But this is the post that actually can get me fired. And is more important. I am a director of admissions. My job is to smile big and recruit as many students as I can, which is actually part of the plan to save higher ed. And under more reasonable circumstances, that is a very good plan given how many students in our state don’t go to college, which is why I’ve devoted so much of my blog to the state admission criteria.

But I’m NOT supposed to do what I’m doing now, because, as Woodley said, higher ed leaders don’t want to say how bad it will really be, because then students and faculty will bolt, making higher education even more susceptible to whatever fresh hell this legislative session will unleash upon us when it is all over. Kind of defeats what I do and could be seen as a serious conflict of interest. Even Alexander isn’t really saying how bad it could be. LSU sent HuffPo the 35% reduction plan. Not the 82% reduction plan.

Unless there isn’t really a plan because you can’t plan for that. Just prepare for exigency and hope for the best. Or at least not the worst.

Commissioner of Jindal’s Bidding Kristy Nichols said last night that Louisiana’s budget will be just fine. On what planet is having several of your universities lose accreditation–and that’s in the “best case” scenario, mind you–fine?

Again, LSU’s 35% contingency plan is the “just fine” scenario. Let that sink in. That, right now, is about the best that we can hope for under the current proposed budget with all of Jindal’s bells, whistles, and money that isn’t really there.

And this is why, like F. King Alexander, I too am risking my job. And obviously I don’t really care. I’m anonymous to buy time for what I’m doing, and also so I can fight for all higher ed, not just one institution. This isn’t to buy time for my job. Because come July there is a very good chance it won’t be there anyway. And my career will be gone too because higher ed in this state will be effectively gone.

I can’t recruit to this. And neither should our higher ed leaders, not at this point. I believe we need to collectively admit how bad it really is. I humbly ask some of my fellow bloggers or journalists–the ones who are in a much better position to do so than I for obvious reasons–to file FOI requests for the CURRENT contingency plans. The 82% plans that Woodley and the rest don’t want to talk about. That is, if they exist other than getting ready to file exigency because you can’t plan for 82% cuts. All you can do is put duct tape on your windows knowing the stuff doesn’t really work and hope the hurricane doesn’t hit.

But if the people don’t know, then they’ll think everything will be like what Kristy Nichols said. Just. Fine.

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