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Education Panel Prepping 

  The commission Gov. Bobby Jindal has charged to guide Louisiana's colleges and universities through the lean budget years to come could bring about substantial changes. Of course, the Postsecondary Education Review Commission actually needs to start meeting before that can happen. Created by the Louisiana Legislature in July, the panel has met only once since then, but another set of meetings will kick off this week. Stephen C. Smith, a member of the commission who also serves as chairman of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System's board of supervisors, says the membership has been communicating and is prepared to have recommendations ready for next year's legislative session. "We know we've got a deadline to meet and if we need to meet every week to make it happen, then believe me, we will work every week," Smith says. "I think there's an extremely high level of interest in this commission. A lot of people will be watching what's going on, and that's a good thing." All of Louisiana's post-secondary schools will have to do more with less, he adds. The state's five-year budget outlook forecasts a $1 billion shortfall in fiscal year 2011, which begins next July, and a $2 billion reduction in money for Louisiana government in fiscal year 2012. As a result, Jindal's education review commission will consider ideas ranging from the mundane to the radical. For instance, state Treasurer John Kennedy has suggested that the state should create a single board for higher education. Louisiana has three higher-ed systems — the LSU System, the Southern System and the University of Louisiana System. Each has its own board of supervisors. — Alford

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