Louisiana’s state universities will soon be public in name only

By Robert Mann

Their months-long “search” for cuts to solve the state’s budget crisis is over and Louisiana’s House Republicans came up with nothing. Well, that’s not exactly right. They did dredge up some valuable-but-specious talking points to further their transformation of Louisiana public colleges and universities into publicly owned, privately funded institutions.

The so-called fiscal conservatives didn’t need specific budget cuts (or new revenue) once they had their talking points. Actually, calling them “talking points” is generous. What they tossed around was the dependable conservative propaganda that state government is bloated.

The only way to force bureaucrats to cut the fat, the reasoning goes, is to slash their budgets. Or, as some Republican leaders put it, the bureaucrats must find “efficiencies.”

Funny thing about such reasoning: Lawmakers proposed few “efficiencies,” certainly not enough to close the budget shortfall. Worse, their fervor for cuts has never applied to the House or Senate, which must be the most efficient state institutions ever.

While lawmakers slashed funding for higher education and health care during the administration of former Gov. Bobby Jindal, legislative spending soared to $108.3 million in 2014-15 from $86.6 million in the 2008-09 budget – a 25 percent increase. (Gov. John Bel Edwards proposed a $17.6 million cut for the Legislature in his 2017 budget.)

The hypocrisy of all this “efficiencies” piffle bears repeating: Over the past eight years, lawmakers cut Louisiana’s higher education budget by hundreds of millions (in the last six years alone, legislators slashed 55 percent of LSU’s general fund appropriations) but increased their institution’s funding by a fourth.

The schools’ response to the severe budget cuts is well known. They laid off faculty and staff, killed degree programs and delayed maintenance and repairs. With legislators’ approval, they drastically increased tuition and fees.

Earlier this year there was even talk of shuttering some universities, including Nicholls State University in Thibodaux. The way things are going, some schools might disappear, but even that radical “efficiency” wouldn’t close the state’s $600 million budget shortfall. Nicholls gets a whopping $16 million in state appropriations, down from $36 million in 2008-09.

Nicholls, like the rest of the state’s universities, is well on its way to becoming a public institution in name only.

If you think slowly starving higher education bothers Republican leaders, you’d be wrong. In fact, it aligns nicely with their anti-education agenda and explains why so many of them went along with Jindal and continue doing his destructive work.

And while they claim they oppose tax increases, they very much favor imposing large tax increases on Louisiana families via higher tuition and fees. And they capped and then cut the state’s tuition assistance program (TOPS), making it ever harder for thousands of young people from low- and middle-income families to afford college.

Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.

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This entry was posted in Education, John Bel Edwards, Louisiana budget, Louisiana higher education, Louisiana Politics, LSU, Politics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Louisiana’s state universities will soon be public in name only

  1. Herman Prager PhD says:

    This is so sad. A poor state already. It always has been so. Poor because it is so uneducated, and the politics are so traditionalistic as described by Daniel Elazar. And what is the legislature doing – cutting more money.

    Regards,

    HP

    ________________________________

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  2. CG says:

    Conservatives (Modern time Republicans) despise education period. Ideas on economics, evolution, human characterization, climate change, etc. go against the very institutions that they violently protect. Over the course of American history, Conservatives have fought radically to protect slavery, segregation, religion, capitalism, monopolies, etc. If it weren’t for the progressive education of citizens, many of these institutions would still remain.

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  3. Stephen Winham says:

    We have just gone through 8 years of budget cuts that largely flew below the radar because they resulted from hocus-pocus budgets that pretended to be balanced, but weren’t and resulted in arbitrary, non-specific cuts not just in higher education, but elsewhere. I call this new way of dishonest budgeting “strangling” the budget. By its nature, the practice leads to ever poorer service delivery and, thus, satisfies its own underlying philosophy that government services are grossly inefficient and of limited, if any, value – Most, with the exception of those benefiting business directly (including privatized services), should simply be eliminated, in the minds of many.

    Of course, none of the brave souls who tout this generic blather are willing to go out on a limb and tell us EXACTLY what services should be eliminated. That would require courage and accountability. It’s easier to just throw out the kind of generalities that feed the public’s growing belief that government is unable to deliver any services efficiently or effectively – and then to ensure this becomes a reality by failing to adequately fund them.

    The legislature is about to go home, having, once again, failed to legislate effectively. They’ve again fooled around and wasted valuable time and now will throw whatever they pass together willy-nilly and hope they can figure out what they did after they go home – or leave somebody else to do so. They, and we, should be ashamed.

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  4. azspeak says:

    sadly, I predicted this 3 years ago. one time I hate being right.

    Sent via my Samsung Galaxy, an AT&T 4G LTE smartphone

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  5. martybankson says:

    One contradiction of capitalism is the impossibility of infinite expansion and unlimited natural resources for an economy based on consumption. In the later stage, capitalism would turn in on itself, and begin looting the systems that supported it, including taking over services previously deemed best in public hands and regulated by public oversight.
    Welcome to the tollbooth economy. Hope you can afford the freight. You legislator will be riding this wave for the foreseeable future.

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  6. Eaton Cumberland says:

    Bob,

    Your report on the State’s funding plan for LSU and Louisiana’s public higher education system in general sadden me. Our nation and indeed the world is undergoing epochal change. The combination of rapid, low cost transportation and near instant communications via the internet transform business to an extent that world has never seen.

    During my Louisiana days, I read a book called The Prize by Daniel Yergin. It explained the economy of the 20th century oil economy and helped me understand my years in that wonderful state (’76 through ’97). When you reach back further to the late 1700’s and all through the 1800’s you understand Louisiana in yet another era. It was then a time when you its agriculture and the Mississippi River, cotton and suger were king. The river traffic from Nashville (where I was born and now live) to New Orleans helped drive the 19th century in a major way. Yergin’s lesson was clear…change comes even when you do not like the change, sometimes the change is epochal, and you must accept it.

    Those times of sugar, then oil, gas and chemicals drove the Louisiana economy are gone; and, the State must change with the times. That is a RESPONISBILITY of state government.

    I look at how Tennessee is literally booming, and admire our Governor for the money he has put into public higher education. He does so without apology, and stands on firm footing and stunning economic growth data as he continues to push higher education. He and Tennessee Senator Corker (who was Mayor of Chattanooga) are unbending in their support for higher education and new industries.

    Tobacco and cotton were king here when I grew up. There is still some cotton, but the tobacco counties are economically dead. In the early 1900’s many of my relatives all went to Detroit to make cars. Now cars are made here, and they are (thank goodness) looking seriously at the days when they are powered without gasoline.

    The world is changing, and it is exciting.

    Our universities are a priceless asset. They discover, develop, educate and teach you to appreciate life and the diverse world in which we live…and they develop a workforce.

    Bob, I miss and love Louisiana, and pray for enlightened leadership. Keep up your good work, and say hello to Cindy and my many, many friends.

    Harvill

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