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After Katrina, Tulane slashes budget, faculty

Tulane University announced plans Thursday to lay off about 230 faculty members and shut down some programs to cope with the financial damage done by Hurricane Katrina.
Tulane University President Scott Cowen announces program cuts to cope with financial damage from Katrina.Chitose Suzuki / AP
/ Source: NBC News and news services

Tulane University announced plans Thursday to lay off about 230 faculty members and shut down some programs to cope with the financial damage done by Hurricane Katrina.

In a set of budget cuts totaling about $100 million, the university will eliminate about 180 tenured faculty positions at its medical school and about 50 in its undergraduate and graduate programs.

Before the storm struck on Aug. 29, Tulane had about 2,500 faculty members and 13,200 students — nearly 8,000 undergraduates and 5,200 in graduate school. But the campus in the city’s Uptown section has been closed since Katrina’s floodwaters ruined New Orleans and scattered most of its half-million inhabitants.

“Our recovery will be very key to the recovery of New Orleans,” University President Scott Cowen told NBC News’ Kerry Sanders, noting that Tulane is the largest employer in New Orleans parish.

The university plans to resume classes Jan. 17, though it expects a costly drop in enrollment.

“I deeply regret that employee reductions were necessary to secure the university’s future,” said Cowen. “We have tried to make the reductions as strategically and humanely as possible, recognizing the hardship it places on those whose positions have been terminated.”

In addition to the 230 professors, more than 2,000 instructors and staff will be laid off, NBC News reported Thursday.

College sports to be eliminated
The university said it will continue to participate in such NCAA Division 1 sports as football, baseball and men and women’s basketball. But it eliminated men’s track, men and women’s tennis, men and women’s golf, women’s swimming, women’s soccer and men’s cross-country.

The university also said that it will concentrate on areas where it has attained, or has the potential to achieve, world-class excellence and “will suspend admission to those programs that do not meet these criteria.” The university did not immediately identify which programs that would mean, but NBC News said most of the engineering degrees would be cut.

“Essentially, they’re going to reinvent Tulane,” said Terry Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education. “The kinds of changes they are likely to make would be the most significant restructuring of any American college or university in the last century.”

And helping to rebuild New Orleans in the form of community service is now a mandatory requirement for graduation, administrators told NBC News on Thursday.

The university put the cost of recovering from the storm so far at $200 million, compared with a pre-Katrina annual budget of $593 million.

Over the past three months, most of Tulane’s students have been scattered at schools around the country, where they are earning credits that could be taken back to Tulane if they decide to return. The football team has been playing all its games in borrowed stadiums. The medical school has been operating out of four Texas universities.

The city’s population is less than one-quarter its pre-Katrina size.