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University makes progress in spite of economic challenges

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Grand opening: UL Lafayette pantry addresses food security on campus

Campus Cupboard is a free resource for students who require short-term help to meet their food needs. The pantry celebrated its grand opening Thursday at 413 Brook Ave.

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Students get front row seat to inner workings of Festival International

Students Nick Tanner, Olatunde Soyombo and Haley Gonzalez are interning for Festival International, the largest international music and arts festival in the U.S.

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Geaux (to Baton Rouge) Cajuns: Turn State Capitol red for UL System Day

The University is providing free transportation to and from Baton Rouge for ULS Day. The annual showcase of UL System institutions is Wednesday. 

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The University of Louisiana at Lafayette continues to protect its academic core, increase enrollment and graduation numbers and make campus improvements – despite a decade of state budget cuts to higher education.

“I remain confident that we will continue to meet our financial challenges, as we have done for the last several years,” Dr. Joseph Savoie, University president, said Wednesday during an annual address to faculty and staff members.

One key reason: the University adopted a new revenue strategy as state funds began to decrease. In fiscal year 2008-09, the state generated 66 percent of the University’s operating budget. By fiscal year 2017-18, that amount had steadily declined to 27 percent.

To replace state revenue, the University now relies more on auxiliary business operations, private philanthropy, research funding, sponsorships and licensing opportunities, and aggressive recruiting and student retention strategies.

Another piece of good news is that state lawmakers ended regular and special legislative sessions earlier this year with the most stable higher education budget in 10 years.

Savoie said UL Lafayette has made “progress by prioritizing its most important assets. First among those is people.”

Despite an increase in student enrollment in recent years, student-to-faculty ratio is the same as in 2008: 22-1. Over the same period, the University’s number of full-time instructional faculty members has grown from 591 to 610. The number of staff members been stable as well, from 1,849 to 1,854.

“While it has not been enough, we’ve continued to do our best to grow our investment in faculty salaries,” Savoie said.

Professors earned an average of $109,566 in fiscal year 2015-2016. Associate professors, assistant professors and instructors were also among the highest paid at the state’s public institutions.

Students are earning degrees at a higher rate, too. Overall, the number of degrees awarded in the past nine years has grown by 43 percent: 39 percent for undergraduate degrees, 55 percent for master’s degrees, and 62 percent for doctoral degrees.

Improvements aren’t confined to the classroom.

The University’s self-funded capital outlay program was created to implement enhancements to campus. About $37.5 million in major repair projects, primarily to academic buildings, are under way.

Among recent projects are renovations to Angelle Hall, Bittle Hall, Broussard Hall, Dupré Library, Madison Hall, Maxim Doucet Hall, McLaurin Hall, Oliver Hall, Rougeau Hall, Stokes Hall, and Wharton Hall.

For another project, University officials are working with student leaders and architects to complete an outdoor amphitheater and create green space adjacent to the Student Union and Cypress Lake.

The University’s impact stretches beyond campus.

UL Lafayette had a statewide economic impact of $379 million in fiscal year 2015, according to an independent economic and community impact analysis conducted by Appleseed. The New York City-based consulting firm provides economic research and analysis to government, nonprofit and corporate clients.

The University recently earned kudos from the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution for conducting important research while providing access to higher education for lower-income students.

The nonprofit public policy organization ranked UL Lafayette the ninth-best four-year, public, research-oriented university in the country for promoting social mobility. The term “social mobility” describes effectiveness at educating low-income and first-generation students.

“We’ve faced challenges and we’ve made progress. We are fulfilling our mission of providing exceptional educational opportunities, advancing knowledge and improving lives,” Savoie said.