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BATONROUGE, La. - The state's higher education leaders outlined their worst-case scenario Tuesday for budget cuts -- onlyto be told that might not be the worst case.

College officials have been asked by legislative leaders to drawup plans for what the loss of nearly $300 million in federalstimulus money in about 14 months would look like for individualschools.

They described cut scenarios to the Senate Finance Committee,saying the loss of the stimulus money -- if not back-filled withstate dollars -- will force widespread layoffs, damage studentinstruction and cause the loss of research and grant money.

The cuts, on tap for the 2011-12 budget year, would come afterbudget cuts over the last year and a half have sliced state fundingto the schools by $250 million.

'We've cut on the margins. We've tried to maintain the academiccore. As we move to the next level, we'll have to go beyond that,'said Randy Moffett, president of the University of LouisianaSystem.

LSU leaders devised a spreadsheet that shows what happens with a$300 million cut.

If doled out evenly to all four-year schools, it could forcemore than 1,700 layoffs and slash nearly one-third of state fundingto each campus. If the eight smallest four-year schools were shutdown and 50,000 students were displaced from their campuses, thatstill wouldn't rescue other colleges from substantial cuts, underthe scenarios presented to lawmakers.

Even if the community and technical colleges were held safe fromcuts, as the spreadsheet envisioned, more students would be pushedonto those campuses because of the slashing at four-year schools --and the community colleges wouldn't get any additional dollars topay for them.

University chiefs stressed they weren't proposing these ideas,but were just offering the information requested by lawmakers.

'We have been reluctant to have such discussions in a publicforum because the magnitude of the conversations gets personallyinterpreted,' said Commissioner of Higher Education Sally Clausen.

She added, 'Today is to discuss the options and the scale of thesituation we face.'

However, the committee chairman, Sen. Mike Michot, R-Lafayette,warned the cuts might even be deeper. As the state loses more thana billion dollars in stimulus cash propping up various agencies,Michot said lawmakers may take more dollars from public colleges toreplace stimulus dollars that had been paying for health careservices and other state expenses.

'This is the least of what you will potentially have toabsorb,' Michot told the college leaders.

Tuition increases couldn't possibly make up the dollars thatwould be cut, LSU System President John Lombardi said.'Tuition is a help, but the help is not sufficient at thisscale to solve the problem,' he said.

And it's unclear how much help the schools will have fromtuition increases. A bill to give colleges the ability to raisetuition without a vote of the Legislature faces a tough road tolegislative passage.

Lawmakers on the Senate panel asked the higher education leadersto look for more efficiencies on campus, to boost online coursesand to continue to find ways to streamline campus spending. Clausensaid the cuts proposed would require far deeper slashing than that.

Lombardi said it would take 15 years to recover from the typesof cuts proposed, and he said the schools will have to start makingdecisions now. He said many of the layoffs and other programchanges would take a year to implement.

'To do $300 million, we're going to have to dismiss a highnumber of faculty and staff. That will require notices,' he said.

'We'll have to pull the trigger somewhere around July 1.'

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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