CROWLEY – Dr. William Nunez, chancellor at LSUE, was the guest speaker at Tuesday afternoon’s meeting of the Crowley Rotary Club.
Dr. Nunez began by saying he was there to talk about his second favorite subject – the first being his grandchildren – LSUE.
According to Dr. Nunez, LSUE will soon be facing a rather large hurdle, which is the projected budget cuts the state government will be making to healthcare and higher education. Healthcare and higher education are the only two portions of the budget not nailed down, constitutionally. Currently, LSUE looks to lose about $2.2 billion in funding, which could set the school back seven years, stated Nunez.
This situation will hurt a school that has seen enrollment improve by nine percent this past semester. Now, the school may have to cut enrollment, leading to a possible 45 percent loss of student population.
LSUE, stated Nunez, is a school that focuses on the individual and giving support to individuals to help them fulfill their potential. The school began with two buildings in a rice field, and now consists of six, soon to be seven, buildings on a 200 acre campus. Student population has grown from 300 students to around 3,000.
While the Acadiana area has been affected by the oil bust in the 70s and more recently, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, LSUE has been largely unaffected, according to Nunez. The university caters largely to the tri-parish region of Acadia, Evangeline and St. Landry Parishes, however, the school has students coming from 48 of the 64 parishes in the state.
Moreover, LSUE has a large economic impact on the region, contributing $8.97 in state appropriations, $5.07 in self-generated revenues, and $1.66 in grants and appropriations to the local economy. Nunez called the school a “significant, economic engine.”
Nunez emphasized that the majority of LSUE students stay in Louisiana, a triumph for the school considering the state loses 17,000 people per year.
There is, stated Nunez, a “direct correlation between economic development and higher education,” pushing his argument that budget cuts to higher education would be a disaster for the state, not just the schools.
“We cannot afford to cut our higher education by 30 percent,” said Nunez.
“Education is the transformer of American life... this is bad, this is really bad.”
Eighty percent of the LSUE budget is dedicated to personnel, with the remaining 20 percent going to operational expenses. If the projected $2.2 billion funding cut pans out, the university will have to cut people to make up the difference.
Nunez appeared pleased with the way the school has been progressing thus far, but worried about the future.
“Please support us on this,” said Nunez, asking the audience to call and express their support for the school to their legislators.