Say it to my face: The no-nonsense student guide to higher education cuts

By Meghan Henoumont


You’ve heard about them on TV, read about them online and just found out they could be costing you $2,000 a year. Higher education budget cuts are here. You may be wondering: what are they? Where did they come from? How will they affect my future? What will happen to public colleges and universities? Slow your roll and read on. We’ll explain all these questions by breaking them down into easy-to-read language and explanations.
What are higher education budget cuts?
Each state has a budget for the financial (fiscal) year. The state’s budget is much like your own budget, only much, much larger. The same way you budget your money for food, bills, school and savings (you should)! The state budgets its money for citizen’s needs, well, it’s supposed to.
The state’s budget covers all state-funded programs and institutions, which include public universities and colleges (higher education), health care, child services and public safety, just to name a few.
Budget cuts happen when the state has used too much of its money and can’t cover everything in the budget. It’s the equivalent of going on a shopping spree and spending money you set aside for needs in your budget. We’ve all done it, only to ask ourselves later if those new shades, that fancy meal, or those designer shoes were worth it.
Don’t let me down
However, when the state does it, everyone who lives there and is dependent on state-funded programs and institutions are the ones who suffer, not the state officials who do the spending. Why would they? It’s your money they are spending. Say-huh? Yep, the state’s budget comes from funds collected by the taxes you pay, and now you are being asked to pay more. For something you are already paying for.
Enter in the dreaded higher education budget cuts.
Our state is facing a $1.6 billion “budget shortfall.” Basically, imagine if during the beforehand mentioned shopping spree you didn’t just overspend by buying one pair of shades, you bought millions of new shades. To cover the billions that are now missing, the state must cut programs and services out of its budget.

Budget cuts, where do they come from?
Outer space. C’mon, you already know. Gov. Bobby Jindal and his administration created the budget cuts. This is the same guy who won’t allow Louisiana to take part in Obama’s proposal of two free years of college for all. The cuts Jindal wrote into the budget deplete a massive amount of money that was supporting public higher education. READ: money that enables YOU to attend school, professors to keep their jobs and your school to stay open. So exactly how much did he cut? Higher education received the worst cuts, $211 million, so bad, they could be devastating to many schools.
What happens now?
Louisiana legislature has to approve the budget and the cuts. Luckily, a few of the legislators are dumbfounded, as any creature with the capacity to reason is, and want to find a different solution. They suggested the state raise the tax on cigarettes to the Southern average of 86 cents from the current level of 36 cents which would generate $100 million to help pay for higher education, great solution right?
My way or the highway
Jindal did not think so, so he came up with a plan that has already been shot down. He proposed “rolling back 12 tax credits,” don’t feel bad, I thought of Wal-Mart at first, too. Only instead of a cheaper flat-screen TV, the rolling back refers to the state not giving business owners tax credits instead. They still would not pay taxes, but they would not get the extra dollars above the tax amount. This process sounds way more complicated than it actually is. The easiest example is if a company owed $1000 in taxes but had a tax credit of $1100, it would not pay taxes and would get $100 back.
Yes, you read right. The rich would have to pay taxes. Needless to say they were not happy. They said some not-so-nice things about the idea and called the plan “a tax hike.” Jindal, who plans to run in the 2016 presidential election, does not want to be labeled a tax hiker. Threatening to disintegrate into the biggest “I know you are, but what am I?” showdown in Louisiana history, Jindal’s administration came up with a new plan.
The in-no-way-excellent excellence fee
“That new costly student fee is excellent!” said no one ever, except for Jindal. His new plan to fund public higher education is to implement a new fee on students annually. He calls it the “excellence fee.” It will cost each student at public colleges and universities an extra $2,000 a year for tuition. The vast majority of these students, like myself, are low-income. The fee would be refunded in the next year’s tax return.
How does this solve the problem?
It doesn’t. By taking money from students only to return it later, Jindal is simply kicking the rock further down the road or to be exact, ensuring the same problem will be there the following year and for many after. He is mortgaging out not only students’ present, but their future as well.
What can be done?
They don’t call us the digital generation for nothing. Take to your social media accounts and talk about it, with everyone you know. Post on the subject, hashtag it, Instagram it and tweet. Let the world know what’s happening here. Write about it, rap, start a discussion in the national community.
Write to your legislators: we promise it’s not as lame as it sounds.
This actually works – the more people who raise their voice, the louder the message. The email should include your name, where you attend school and why the excellence fee is not an excellent idea.
All legislators’ contact info can be found at: http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/FindMyLegislators.aspx
Here are a few to email:
1. Rep. Nick Lorusso: larep094@legis.la.gov
2. Senator Edwin R. Murray: murraye@legis.la.gov

For the following legislators, click the contact me link to send an email.

3. Congressman Steve Scalise: http://scalise.house.gov/
4. Senator David Vitter: http://www.vitter.senate.gov/
5. Senator Bill Cassidy: http://www.cassidy.senate.gov/

What Next?

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