(Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Monday, April 21, 2014 2:33 PM
The hand-wringing continues over Louisiana’s inability to mass produce men and women with university or technical college degrees.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the South has the lowest percentage of higher education degrees in the nation. And among the Southern states, Louisiana, Arkansas and West Virginia are tied for last, with only 28 percent of adults between the ages of 25 and 64 possessing a university or community college degree. The Southern average is 36 percent while the national average is 39 percent.
Testifying before the state Senate Finance Committee earlier this week, Tom Layzell, a higher education adviser, said the key to improving the number is to lure back to college some of the 546,000 students who have attended some college in Louisiana but have not earned a degree.
He said it will take time and treasure to find those students and recruit them to return to campuses around the state.
The hang-up, said some state lawmakers, is money.
“We’ve broken every piggy bank and trust that’s out there,” said state Sen. Fred Mills, R-New Iberia, referring to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s raids on funds to balance the state budget. “I don’t see any new funding coming to higher ed except for slow growth.”
But Layzell testified that the benefits of increasing more college degrees in Louisiana “can’t be overstated.”
In 2010, the University of Louisiana System launched Project Win-Win. It identified students who were no longer enrolled in the UL System, but had accumulated more than 60 credit hours to qualify for an associate degree.
The nine universities in the UL System, which includes McNeese State University, are also participating in the state’s first online program designed for adults who dropped out of college. The system’s bachelor’s in organizational leadership is a unique online degree offered jointly by the nine UL System campuses.
The accelerated program makes it possible for students to earn a bachelor’s degree in five, eight-week sessions that can be completed in two years. It consists of 30 hours of courses offered jointly by faculty at the nine universities and 30 hours of concentration and elective courses offered by each UL System institution.
With money continuing to be an issue in higher education, that’s the type of creative thinking that it’s going to take to raise the percentage of Louisiana residents that possess a post-high-school degree.