UNO braces for looming program cuts and tuition hikes

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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - The University of New Orleans is in the cross hairs of Governor Bobby Jindal’s new budget plan that needs to fill a 1.6 billion dollar shortfall. Which means tuition hikes and program cuts are on the horizon.

"It's already high enough,” say freshmen Meagan Riche. “I wouldn’t want them to be higher than they already are, and then I still have like three more years left."

UNO has the option to raise tuition by 10%.

“We've really been cut enough already. Enough is enough,” says UNO President Dr. Peter Fos who addressed media just after the governor's executive budget was announced.

The state shortfall leaves UNO a $102,000,000 budget for this academic year.

UNO was expecting a much larger deficit, “ We now stand at less than ten million and not the seventeen we were told to expect."

The university intends initially to eliminate seven academic programs, one department, and 26 faculty.

Outside the Performing Arts Center, we spoke with grad student Jorge Velasquez who survived cuts at UNO before, “When I first got here, my initial music program was cut. And in my senior year it was only down to three of us and I am the only one to graduate from that program."

To stay ahead, Velasquez says his program is pushing to become an actual School of the Arts rather than just a department within the university, “That opens the door for more funding from outside sources and hopefully brings in more students into the program."

Dr. Fos says the UNO is at a tipping point where anymore cuts could affect the quality of what they do here, “That's one of the things that keeps me awake at night, that as we are beginning to make these cuts in personnel and resources we might get to the point where a student isn't receiving a quality education."

“I wouldn't want to see it close down,” says Riche. Because I don't know where else I would go to college."

Dr. Fos says his proposed cuts fit in with UNO’s long term mission.

However, the Board of Supervisors at the University of Louisiana system will have the final say.

“I still love this school and the faculty and staff,” says Velasquez. “That’s why I decided to stay here, and I’m very proud to see this program flourishing."