Louisiana considers a whole pile of academic sacrifices

The state of Louisiana is contemplating more cuts to its public higher education system, and things could get ugly.  This isn’t a queen sacrifice, but something larger.

axThanks to recent budget decisions and the collapse of oil prices, the state economy is in recession and its government’s finances are being squeezed.  Now there is talk of keeping expenditures down by, among other things, slashing support to colleges and universities.

University presidents and financial aid directors met in committee to plead their cases to lawmakers.

Some said the schools will not last if any more cuts are made…

The threat of new cuts combined with the reality of recent cuts has already hurt Louisiana’s public higher ed and students:

Almost every university system president is struggling with student retention and course cancellations.

“I know what it’s like to look a student in the face and tell him he’s not going to be able to graduate this time because we can’t afford the class he needs. We used to teach it, but we don’t now,” said Dr. Daniel D. Reneau Jr., Interim President of the University of Louisiana System.

As the governor put it in a recent, chilling speech:

Even with additional revenue, higher education this year will need to cut $42 million. This will be combined with a $28 million cut in TOPS scholarship funds
that the universities will have to absorb, resulting in the largest mid-year cut in Louisiana history.

Note the “additional revenue” bit, which Bel Edwards is obviously calling for.  If that extra money doesn’t come in?  “[H]igher education will face catastrophic cuts over the next 4 months.”

[W]ithout legislators approving new revenue this special session, some campuses will be forced to declare financial bankruptcy, which would include massive layoffs and the cancellation of classes.

LSU stadium

The governor goes further, reaching for the nuclear option:

student athletes across the state at those schools will be ineligible to play next semester. That means you can say farewell to college football next fall.

Sports fans have taken notice and umbrage  (For readers outside the United States, threatening college sports is a terrifying specter, akin to waving around a nuclear-tipped ICBM).

Payments from TOPS, the state’s major financial aid program, have paused, and the governor isn’t sure they can resume next year. One campus is openly discussing closing for a few weeks, even if more money flows in.

Don’t forget the recent background for Louisiana higher education is pretty grim:

According to statistics from the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities, Louisiana leads the nation in cuts to higher ed, having cut funding by 41 percent since 2008. Louisiana’s higher education tuition increases are the fourth-highest in the nation, having risen 67.2 percent since 2008, the report states.

Here’s a story about LSU Baton Rouge’s horrendous maintenance problem.  And yes, that’s the same LSU which played a key role in this month’s epochal discovery of gravitational waves.  Maintenance problems are system-wide.  How can these be addressed?  Can Louisiana figure out how to at least keep its public universities on colleges on life support?

I’ve been posted about the Louisiana higher ed crisis for a while.

(thanks to Billy Pritchard, MetaFilter, Vanessa Vaile, Recession Realities in Higher Education, and still more friends for links; LSU stadium photo by Daniel Foster; ax photo is one of mine)

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5 Responses to Louisiana considers a whole pile of academic sacrifices

  1. VanessaVaile says:

    Thank you, Bryan. I’m sharing this with a grad school friend currently adjuncting at South Louisiana Community College (how’s that for double jeopardy?) and other former UL-Lafayette colleagues. Here’s hoping they comment

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  2. The Jindal years were very bad for Louisiana and few understood how badly he managed the economy. unfortunately, a majority of Americans have bought into the GOP idea that only lower taxes can promote economic growth. On the other hand, Democrats too refuse to educate the people as to the impact of the global economy and the need for new ideas.. There is even a presidential candidate who is proposing trillions in new taxes to pay for 1940s type socialistic programs –proposals that would more ore less bankrupt middle class retirees.

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  3. Bryan,
    Thanks for your always excellent analysis and the Future Trends Forum.

    This most recent post on Louisiana and earlier ones on various forms of “queen sacrifice” make clear that the existential challenges of higher education are not limited to traditional small colleges, but now extend to the full spectrum of public universities. If these events were occurring 7 years ago we could blame the economy. Now the consequences of public disinvestment and systemic weakness are more visible.

    For those who believe this is the new normal, it is a time for innovation. For those who believe a realignment of resources is in the offing, it should also be a time for innovation, so as to increase affordability and access to higher education at the same time. These are threads I see twisting through your Future Trends Forum…particularly when overlaying the divergent perspectives of folks like Waters and DeMillo. There is much to be learned from these conversations.

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  4. Pingback: Oklahoma prepares for higher education cuts | Bryan Alexander

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