With no plan or vision for the future of higher education coming out of the Jindal administration — just cuts — Randy Moffett announces his retirement.
By Leslie Turk
July 26, 2012
It certainly appears that UL System President Randy Moffett, 65, has had enough. In the past four years of the Jindal administration — the time frame in which Moffett has been president of the system — higher education institutions have been hit with a 41.7 percent reduction in state appropriations, their budgets slashed a total of $615.3 million, according to numbers released in early July by the Louisiana Democratic Party.
The state has no plan or vision for the future of our colleges and universities, and higher ed officials are getting nowhere with Jindal. It seems the only word the governor knows when it comes to higher ed is “cut.”
Moffett did not directly answer ABiz’s question about whether he’d long planned to retire after four years as system head. “There was never a set timeline,” he says. “I began pondering retirement over the last year, especially since my wife retired and we continue to be blessed with more grandchildren.”
It can’t be said that Moffett sat quietly in the weeks and months leading up to the July 9 retirement announcement. He voiced objection to the latest round of budget cuts and in mid June asked the state’s higher education board to scrap its method for distributing money to colleges and make it more equitable in light of the cuts.
Moffett said in a June 11 press release that the current performance-based formula used by the Board of Regents, designed when state funding for higher education was increasing, was intended as a way to create incentives for campuses to improve their performance. He said it wasn’t intended to strip funding from schools. “Given the current dire financial circumstances in higher education following four years of budget cuts,” Moffett wrote, “it is time to revisit how monies are allocated throughout public higher education to ensure that all institutions are treated fairly.”
“We have always supported performance and the concept of a performance funding formula, but the formula was not designed to distribute diminishing resources. Instead of rewarding performance like the GRAD Act that provides for tuition increases when measures are met, the formula shifts state funding from one institution to another,” Moffett continued. “This is compounded when state monies for higher education are dedicated to specific institutions or purposes, as this reduces the funding available to all campuses. Given the financial crisis facing higher education in Louisiana, a temporary suspension of the formula would allow limited resources to be allocated in a fairer manner.”
According to Moffett, limitations of the formula include its failure to recognize differences in role, scope, and mission; failure to recognize that smaller institutions are more at risk; and failure to recognize disparate tuition rates relative to peer institutions. Read more on the impact of the current formula on universities here.
Right after Moffett made his remarks, the AP reported that Commissioner of Higher Education Jim Purcell, head of the Board of Regents, showed no interest in the suggestion to suspend use of the performance-based system.
On July 9, after more than 40 years in higher education — including the four years as president of the UL System and seven years as president of Southeastern Louisiana University — Moffett said he will retire in early fall.
“It has been a privilege to serve the people of Louisiana and higher education. Over the course of my career I have had opportunities to take positions out of this state, but my heart has always kept me in Louisiana. While I will miss working with a tremendous board, tenacious university presidents, and talented staff, I am looking forward to spending more time with my family,” he said in a press release.
“Dr. Randy Moffett is one of the most esteemed leaders I know who provided great leadership during some very challenging times for higher education. A hard worker with a remarkable career, Randy earned the respect of every single member of the board,” UL System Board Chair Wayne Parker said in the announcement. “While I am certainly happy for him and wish him the best in retirement, his absence will be felt.”
Parker plans to call a meeting of the board’s executive committee to discuss next steps for finding Moffett’s successor. “We will move as quickly as possible to get the process started,” Parker added, noting the Moffett has been asked to assist in the search.
A native of Jonesboro, Moffett became the seventh UL System president in July 2008. During his first year at the helm, the UL System completed a comprehensive economic and community impact study, partnered with the Louisiana Department of Education to establish mentoring programs at all universities, and established a cost containment and efficiencies committee to streamline operations.
According to the system office, Moffett guided the search and selection of five university presidents, shepherded the movement of the UNO into the UL System, and guided the system’s universities through a series of budget reductions while improving operational efficiency, accountability and performance. Under his leadership, the UL System increased admission standards, enhanced access to community college students, expanded online degree offerings, implemented a 120-hour degree standard, increased retention rates, reduced time to degree, increased the number of degrees awarded, and raised graduation rates.
Before becoming president of Southeastern in Hammond, one of the nine universities that make up the UL System, Moffett worked at Southeastern in various staff, faculty and administrative positions for more than 25 years. He oversaw its transition from an open-admissions institution to one that embraced admission standards ahead of the state’s time schedule. In spite of this move, the university maintained a strong enrollment of approximately 15,000 students, making it the third largest university in the state.
Moffett began his career as a high school classroom teacher in the Jackson Parish School System and worked at Northwestern State University as both director of high school relations and assistant director of external affairs.
Moffett’s wife, Dr. Barbara Moffett, retired earlier this year from Southeastern, where she served as head of the department of nursing. They have three children and five grandchildren.