Higher education is once again facing budget cuts across the board, and for Northwest Louisiana Technical College that will mean tightening their already strained funds.
Rep. Gene Reynolds, District 10, said the state is facing another $315 million shortfall from last year. That gap must be filled first, he said.
“We have to take that money out of this year’s budget so that’s balanced,” he said. “For the current year’s budget, it’s looking more like $400 million to $500 million short. These first round of cuts will probably not be more than 3 or 4 percent. There will still be some substantial cuts from quite a few things.”
Reynolds said vocational schools don’t get hit as hard as some of the others, such as community colleges or universities.
“In this first round of cuts, vocational colleges are probably looking at anywhere from 2 to 5 percent in cuts,” he said. “This next week, I’m meeting with the governor, and we’re going to try to get more specific on what the plan may be.”
NWLTC Interim Director Dianne Clark said from an approximate $9 million regional budget, 6.7 percent of their state funding was cut between last fiscal year and the current year, which runs from July 1 to June 30, and they are preparing for midyear cuts.
“I just have to stand by the mission of the college, which is to provide training to students that meet the workforce needs of Louisiana,” she said. “I will do everything in my power to maintain the integrity of each one of our training programs to the extent that I can. With cuts on top of cuts, we will look for ways to maintain what we have. We’re just going to have to look for ways to be more resourceful and share resources among our sister colleges.”
Community and business support has increased immensely, she said, and with the cuts that have been made and those coming, alternative sources of funding will be sought.
“We have the most supportive communities that anyone could ever ask for,” she said. “When we have asked for their guidance, they have always provided it. What we’re going to have to do now is lean on them to help us to help us develop alternative resources. We’re going to have to become self-supportive.”
Clark said while it may look gloomy, NWLTC is providing programs that are producing graduates that are going to work. Following their recent fall commencement exercises, she said nearly every one of the 53 graduates were offered employment before the end of the day.
This means meetings with manufacturers and other companies to show the importance of technical training in the area have paid off, she said.
“It’s been really exciting,” she said. “That’s the silver lining in what is otherwise very scary. The reality is we are going to face budget cuts, but just as real, is that we are doing everything within our scope of possibility to maintain the integrity of those programs. That just means we have to do some creative partnerships.”
Reynolds said once the joint budget committee meets this week, the cuts approved would go into effect immediately.