UNO, SUNO take part in rally against higher ed cuts

UNO, SUNO take part in rally against higher ed cuts

BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - University and college students showed up at the State Capitol to put up a fight against feared budget cuts.

The state is facing a $1.6 billion shortfall for the fiscal year that begins in July, and higher education is one of the few areas where spending can be cut.

"No funds, no future," students and state lawmakers supporting their cause chanted.

Among the dozens of rally participants were UNO and Southern University of New Orleans students.

"It is outrageous that he would consider to cut the sole thing that produces productive citizens," said Dylen Johnson, SUNO Student Government Association President.

"It's too disheartening to think about what those kinds of cuts can do if the initial budget cuts were definitely put through," said David Teagle, President of the UNO Student Government Association.

There are fears that the higher education system could face up to a $600 million reduction in the new budget. Discussion was also had during the Appropriations Committee meeting.

"The way that the budget is structured right now, it's about half a billion of contingency dollars If for some reason that fails, actually the cuts to higher ed are even more severe than that," said Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans.

UNO says if every one of the governor's ideas for funding colleges and universities is adopted, the lakefront campus will still lose more than $7 million, and if none the proposed solutions become reality, there will be an impact of three times that amount.

Teagle said campus life would suffer.

"We would have to cut back on things like enrollment programs, we'd have to cut back on the assistance that we can give to students, so that it makes it harder for the students that are there to be able to succeed," Teagle said.

"I don't like getting down to the point where our choices are higher ed and health care," said Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Kenner.

Still, he said there is duplication in the higher education system.

"I'm not for closing UNO and SUNO or combining them, whatever, but I mean let's face it, if you look around and I'm not going to point out any particular college, there are some that probably need to be combined," Martiny said.

In light of the budget crisis there are a number of bills that would increase the amount of revenue going into the state's bank account, but Governor Bobby Jindal says he will not support any new taxes.

"I think we've got the strength in numbers though to try to push the governor in that direction, but it is going to be difficult considering the pledge that he has signed," said Moreno.

"You have to throw in there the fact that this is an election year and nobody wants to vote for taxes that are going to get vetoed," Martiny further stated.

Still, lawmakers vow to work to limit the pain on universities and colleges funded by the state.

"Not only can we not go home, we should not go home because there's nothing more important that we have to do," said Rep. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans.

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