For a half-century after its founding in 1958, UNO offered generations of middle-class New Orleanians an affordable pathway to a four-year college degree. But it has fallen on hard times during the past decade, beginning with the damage caused by 2005’s Hurricane Katrina and continuing with deep budget cuts and admission requirements that have seen its student body shrink by half.That's a lot of dismal evisceration of programs and firing of people and whatnot. It takes a real hero to accept the $325,000 salary plus perks such as a house and car to be the hatchet man in that scenario. Luckily, Peter Fos was available and willing.
Like its peers, UNO got few favors from former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration. Over the past eight years, UNO’s state support has shrunk by more than half, from $74 million in 2008-09 to almost $33 million in 2014-15. The school’s overall budget has been cut by about 20 percent over that span, to $102 million.
Enrollment has followed a similar downward trajectory, from 17,142 students registered pre-Katrina to just 8,423 last fall — UNO’s smallest class since 1967. Over that time, UNO has gone from being the state’s second-largest four-year school to its seventh-largest.
It wasn’t long before he faced his first budget challenge: In his first year, the state cut its support by more than $9 million. Then, the new admission requirements took effect, further reducing an already low enrollment. He estimates that about 750 students could no longer enroll at UNO in fall 2012.Layoffs and people taking on more work without compensation. Meanwhile, Fos pads his retirement savings. But somehow he can't imagine a "worse scenario" for himself. Who would even want that job now?
“You couldn’t have planned a worse scenario for me, to be honest with you,” he said.
To cope with less revenue, Fos made a number of controversial cutbacks, deep-sixing academic programs, eliminating hundreds of jobs and closing a popular on-campus day care center.
Mostly through attrition, UNO’s faculty has shrunk considerably, from 199 professors in 2005 to 91 professors in 2015.
As colleagues left and weren’t replaced, faculty members who stayed had to pick up added responsibilities — including teaching more classes — after going years without a raise.
New Orleans Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin is among five candidates under consideration to lead the struggling University of New Orleans. The group also includes several university provosts, including UNO’s.Makes sense. For one thing, it's one of the few jobs available in town that would represent a pay raise for Kopplin. Plus his Teach For America experience shows he knows what it takes to separate tenured education professionals from their jobs. Add to that the fact that the university presidents end up making almost as many municipal administrative decisions in New Orleans as the Deputy Mayor does and you can see why this is a good fit.
Kopplin has served as the city’s first deputy mayor and chief administrative officer since Mayor Mitch Landrieu took office in 2010. Before that, he spent two years as a senior adviser at Teach for America and two years as executive director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, the state agency tasked with leading the state’s recovery after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.