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Editorial: Rasberry half right about higher ed funding

Last Modified: Thursday, August 29, 2013 5:21 PM

Yet another voice has come forward to complain about recent severe cuts in how Louisiana funds higher education.

This time the complainant is Clinton "Bubba" Rasberry, chairman of the Louisiana Board of Regents, which oversees all higher ed public institutions in the state.

‘‘If higher education is a priority in our state, the level of investment must reflect that,’’ Rasberry told the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge earlier this month. ‘‘We need stability in funding and some predictability.’’

The only thing predictable over the past several years has been cuts of more than $700 million to the state’s higher education institutions. Some, but not all of those cuts, have been made up by higher tuition fees charged to students.

Additionally, the bulk of those cuts have been up-front in budgets prepared by Gov. Bobby Jindal. Other cuts have been of the mid-year variety after presidents and chancellors at higher education institutions have mapped out spending for the year.

Rasberry said nearly two of every three jobs that will be available in the next 10 years will require some sort of college affirmation, whether it’s a traditional four-year degree or certification for a skill from a community or technical college.

‘‘It’ll be the countries and states that have the density of skilled workers that will thrive,’’ he said. ‘‘The rest are certain to decline economically.’’

Rasberry also noted that last year’s $192 million cost of the popular Taylor Opportunity Program for Students is up 260 percent since it was initiated in 1999. He said half of the students who receive TOPS tuition aid come from households that make $75,000 or more a year.

He said though TOPS’ philosophy to reward students who excelled academically was well-intentioned, ‘‘it’s draining the state.’’

Rasberry laid the blame for cuts to higher ed at the feet of state lawmakers. He said proposals to give universities and community and technical colleges more latitude to raise tuition and charge for more expensive degree programs found little traction in the state Legislature.

He’s partially correct. But he’s intellectually dishonest when he omits the governor’s administration which drafts the initial state budget annually from any of the blame.

The fact that he’s appointed to the Board of Regents by the governor likely has a lot to do with that error.

• • •

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, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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