Tulane Scales Back Post-Katrina

Flood waters from Katrina surround Tulane University.
After Hurricane Katrina, students at Tulane University will return to a school with a gutted engineering department, eight fewer sports programs and student housing replaced by cruise ships.

The school is also laying off nearly 10 percent of its faculty – 230 positions – before students return Jan. 19 for the first classes since the school was swamped by the storm.

"I have thought long and hard to see if I could identify a comparable change at another university in the last century, and I can't," Terry Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education, said Thursday.

The campus in the city's Uptown section has been closed since Katrina's floodwaters devastated New Orleans and drove out most of its half-million inhabitants. About two-thirds of Tulane's facilities flooded, including dormitories, and most of the students are now scattered at schools around the country.

Tulane put the cost of recovering from the storm so far at $200 million (euro170 million) and said it expects a one-third drop in enrollment. Before Katrina, Tulane had 13,214 students - 7,976 undergraduate and 5,238 in graduate schools.

Other area schools also have scaled back faculty – including Dillard University, which laid off two-thirds of its faculty – but Tulane is the first to announce the elimination of academic programs.

"This is the most significant reinvention of a university in the United States in over a century," Scott Cowen, the university's president, said Thursday.

Five undergraduate programs are being dropped: civil and environmental engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science, computer engineering and exercise and sports science.

More than half of its doctoral programs, including English, economics and statistics, are also being cut.

About 180 of the faculty layoffs will be at the medical school, temporarily located at Baylor University. The cuts reflect the lack of patients: clinical faculty jobs make up about three-quarters of the cuts.

Most of the other layoffs are in engineering, where five of seven undergraduate programs are gone.

The school is losing eight athletic programs - men's track, men and women's tennis, men and women's golf, women's swimming, women's soccer and men's cross-country. NCAA Division 1 sports, such as football, baseball and men and women's basketball, will continue.

Flood damage from Katrina also has made apartments hard to find, so incoming students will be housed on a cruise ship in the Mississippi River.

Students entering next fall and after will also be required to participate in community service work and help to rebuild New Orleans.

By Chevel Johnson