Community College Mission At Risk In Current Budget
Louisiana’s workforce development mission, principally delivered in the state’s community and technical colleges, is at risk in the current version of House Bill 1, according to college officials. Lawmakers amended the budget bill to remove so-called one-time money, directing the Commissioner of Administration to make cuts in several broad areas. As a result, nearly $41 million is slated to be cut from community and technical colleges, roughly 29% of the state funds allotted to the schools. The state’s budgetary structure essentially protects $22 billion of the $25 billion budget ensuring cuts disproportionately affect higher education and healthcare.
Dr. Joe D. May, president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, explains what the impact these cuts mean for those across the state.
“Over the past several years Louisiana’s Community and Technical Colleges have focused on aligning programs with the needs of the local workforce in all regions of the state,” May said. “While the proposed reductions of approximately $42 million touch all sixteen of the state’s community and technical colleges, they will disproportionally affect technical education and workforce programs. This comes at a time when employers throughout the state are experiencing a shortage of skilled workers. Because these proposed budget reductions are in addition to cuts that have occurred over the past three years, they will result in fewer educational opportunities for students, employers, and communities across the state.”
Bossier Parish Community College is slated for a $2.8 million reduction, putting the rapidly growing college at less than half of the state support provided just three years ago. BPCC Chancellor Jim Henderson expressed concern the cuts would hamper the college’s ability to prepare students for the workforce.
“Over the past few years, we have embraced the challenges emerging from the new fiscal reality by creating a consumer-driven, talent development enterprise,” Henderson said. “We are a creative, resilient team, but we’ve reached the tipping point. The proposed funding level will severely impact our ability to serve students and support this regional economy.”
Henderson credits the college’s growth and success during the period of budget reductions to BPCC’s faculty and staff.
“With no new financial support from the state, we have created and grown programs essential to economic growth,” Henderson said. “Our team understands the importance of our mission to this community and has delivered at a level that far exceeds any reasonable expectation.”
During the period of budget reductions, BPCC has managed to create and grow programs to support critical economic sectors. The college has developed and expanded programs in the fields of healthcare, information technology, energy, and engineering.
“We consider ourselves to be more than just another college,” Henderson said. “We are a market responsive, economic engine for Northwest Louisiana.”
In recent weeks, BPCC has received a number of accolades. The Department of Homeland Security designated the college a National Center of Academic Excellence. Community College Week recognized BPCC as the nation’s fastest growing community college in its category. The college’s debate team won its second consecutive national championship and 100% of BPCC’s first graduating class of registered nurses passed the national licensure exam on the first attempt.