Tulane University of New Orleans, facing significant budget shortfalls since Hurricane Katrina, announced a dramatic plan Thursday to reduce its annual operating budget by laying off 230 faculty members, cutting seven NCAA Division 1 programs in eight sports and eliminating underperforming academic programs.
Administrators say the long-term plan is to create a stronger and leaner undergraduate school by focusing on popular and strong programs such as architecture, business, arts and sciences, while jettisoning some engineering programs that were not as highly rated.
Full-time faculty will be required to teach undergraduates, and by keeping the school smaller, officials said they will not have to lower admissions standards. Officials also intend to create a stimulating campus environment with more activities for students who can no longer be enticed by the charms of New Orleans – but may be lured by an opportunity to rebuild a city. Starting next fall, there will be a mandatory public service requirement for graduation.
“We think these changes will be a win-win,” said Tulane President Scott Cowen said of the restructuring, which some experts called the most significant by a major university in decades. “What we are offering is a first-rate education and the opportunity to be a part of the biggest recovery in the last 100 years… . It’s a unique opportunity that students won’t get at any other school in America.”
The school will continue to participate in football, baseball, women’s and men’s basketball, women’s volleyball and women’s track.
The actions taken by Tulane – the richest of the four main private institutions of higher learning in New Orleans – underscores the challenges faced by colleges in the Gulf region as they struggle to stay viable after the storm. More than 30 schools are facing a total of $1.5 billion in damage and recovery costs after Katrina, displacing upward of 100,000 students. Fifteen schools remain closed.