Senator addresses budget cut concerns at Student Town Hall

Speaker speaks

Senator Elbert Guillory discusses the possibility of alterations to TOPS
eligibility and the effects cutbacks to education will have on college students.
The Lion's Roar / Heather Jewell

The time for parading around with signs saying “save higher education,” “no funds-no future” and “no cuts” has passed. The cutbacks will occur whether students statewide want them to or not. 

According to Louisiana Senator Elbert Guillory, changes could include the alteration of TOPS eligibility. A cap on TOPS has been passed in the Senate to make the money received based more on a family’s income.

Scholarships may be affected by Governor Bobby Jindal’s budget cuts as well, but no official move has been currently made.

Faculty salaries will continue to be at risk, educators have been unable to receive raises in eight years and others may be cut from their universities.

Last Thursday, Guillory visited Southeastern, giving students the opportunity to ask him exactly what they wanted to know about what is happening in our state legislature.

“I wanted to talk with students about the crisis, get their ideas and help them understand the crisis,” said Guillory. “I get recharged and reenergized talking to young people. It reminds me of why I’m here and helps me remember what I’m fighting for.”

Most states re-prioritize aspects of government each year. Louisiana’s law is different in the state’s constitution, it was made that money for specific places would be saved in lock boxes and could not be used to fund anything else than their intended target. Not everything was given a lock box. Higher education and health care have been without one and have been placed on the chopping block. Recently, health care has had more restrictions placed on budget changes, making higher education one of the only faucets for the government to make budget changes without needing a two thirds majority vote.

If a convention is held, the lock boxes could go under review and be eradicated completely, allowing Louisiana to follow other state’s actions and re-prioritize each year.

A review on higher education will be done and can result in fewer universities. The state will invest in the good ones and cut the bad. According to Guillory, this tactic has been accepted across the board.

No official metric method had been decided to measure universities, and during his time with the students, Guillory posed the question, “How do you think schools should be compared?”

One of the students in attendance, junior mathematics major Chase Blank, offered his own theory.

“It’s a pretty basic idea. I suggested that we rate schools based on a percentage of students with a certain GPA. For example, say the GPA range is from 3.0 to 4.0, then how many students out of the whole student body fall into this bracket. This would allow every school to be viewed as if it were of equal size and rank their performance accordingly, thus showing the state which universities they should invest in,” said Blank. 

Blank admitted he was unsure of a complete solution to the budget crisis.

“Ideally what should happen is schools raise their requirements for acceptance, resulting in fewer students, and lowering operating costs,” said Blank. “On the other hand, schools could possibly make classes easier so that they maintain a percentage in that bracket. So what is the right answer? I don’t know.”

Guillory stated he would re-prioritize to make public safety first and health care second.

“The first order of business in government is to protect its people from criminals, murderers, that sort of thing. That is the first order of business,” said Guillory. “If you are to enjoy any of the benefits that flow from good government, a good education, good jobs, any of those things, you have to be in reasonable good health. So health care second.”

Higher education closely follows behind health care in importance to a state’s well being and moving forward for improving one’s life.

“Right behind, almost equal to second is education, because that is the way out. My grandfather was a slave, in two generations, two of his children taught at universities,” said Guillory. “To move from slavery to college professors in two generations took a lot of hard work and dedication to higher education.”

Whatever decision is made by our legislature, the changes to the state’s budget in regard to higher education will impact the students. 

“It was refreshing to have a politician take time out of his schedule to listen to our opinions and concerns,” said Caitlyn Daigle, junior communication major. “More students should have taken advantage of the opportunity.”

For more information about legislative change, visit louisiana.gov.