Higher education could take significant financial hit - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Higher education could take significant financial hit

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New Orleans, La. - Delgado Community College has been struggling with a budget shortfall.

"Our program budgets have been cut. We lost a lot of our capital funding to get new equipment and things like that." says Director of Theatre Tim Baker.

Now a memo sent to faculty and other employees lay out a more serious situation.

According to the email, obtained by FOX 8, the community college has a nearly $8 million budget deficit this fiscal year because of a reduction in funding from the state and a decrease in enrollment revenues.

The email spells out plans for a layoff of faculty and unclassified employees by the end of next month.

"It's really a shame cause we produce students who get employed and we save students." says Baker.

Chancellor Monty Sullivan's memo didn't give details as to how many employees could be laid off, but did say the budget deficit may be the same or even greater in 2014.

In fact, students attending public universities across the state may soon have an added worry.  If the universities raise their tuition rates, the state's TOPS scholarship program will need more money.

Now there's talk of putting a cap on the TOPS program. This upcoming school year, TOPS will cost the state about $204 million.

"TOPS has pretty much doubled over the last years, so it is something that is going into the state budget. And the question is, how do you address that?" says Commissioner of Higher Education James Purcell.

Next year, 48,000 students will get the TOPS scholarship.  If a cap is put on the program, students may have to pay thousands out of pocket.

"I don't know what I would do without it. I can't pay out of pocket for it." says student Tyler August.

Right now, there are no plans on the table for how lawmakers would cap the TOPS program.  It's expected to come up in the legislative session that begins Monday.

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