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Editorial: Higher education in need of funding

Last Modified: Tuesday, October 01, 2013 8:15 PM How the state of Louisiana continues to fund higher education in Louisiana continues to be maddening.

Since his election to his first term in 2008, Gov. Bobby Jindal has cut $700 million in funding to state colleges and universities. Some of that gap has been made up by higher tuition charges to students.

But one thing is clear: The governor and state lawmakers can’t have it both ways, touting a higher education system that prepares students for high-paying jobs and as an elixir for the state’s chronic poverty while failing to adequately fund these institutions.

Shackled by the state cuts, university presidents and higher education boards have pleaded for the past few years for greater latitude in raising tuition. Those efforts have made little headway in the state Capitol.

University of Louisiana System President Sandra Woodley said given the political climate, fighting for more discretion on tuition increases is a waste of time.

‘‘We do need financial relief,’’ she said. ‘‘(Funding) stability is our number one priority, but we need to focus on what we can get done.’’

Southern University System President Ronald Mason agreed. He said his colleagues should focus more on ending the practice of state lawmakers stripping state funding from institutions that corresponds with those institutions’ tuition increases, leaving university and college presidents with a net zero funding increase.

‘‘What’s more important,’’ Mason told The Advocate of Baton Rouge, ‘‘is that we stabilize funding and be able to keep the tuition we charge.’’

Woodley favors changes to the 2010 Louisiana Grad Act, which allows universities to raise tuition up to 10 percent annually if they meet graduation and retention rates.

She said it is unfair to hold universities with a large population of low-income and non-traditional students to the same graduation and retention standards as institutions with higher-achieving students.

Tuition flexibility is higher education’s top priority, said newly minted LSU System President King Alexander.

He should know. The state’s flagship university charges about 30 percent less in tuition than its peers.

Imagine the outcry if the budget for LSU’s football program was 30 percent less than Alabama’s or Georgia’s.

What higher education desperately needs right now is a champion for it in the state Legislature. It’s certainly not getting much support from Jindal.

House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, acknowledged after this past regular session that a stable source of income needs to be located for higher education.

Saying it and finding it, though, are two different matters.

• • •

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Mike Jones, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

Posted By: D Dubose On: 10/2/2013

Title: Finding It

How about a reduction in tax credits to corporations operating in Louisiana, which costs the state millions in lost revenues annually? How about stopping the unmitigated flow of state tax monies into the hands of private businesses (such as private schools, when we should be fixing public schools)?

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