Outgoing University of Louisiana System President Randy Moffett. (Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Monday, August 06, 2012 10:41 PM
Outgoing University of Louisiana System President Randy Moffett recently floated several ideas to stabilize funding for higher education in Louisiana.
Moffett’s solutions include giving universities more freedom to raise tuition, providing higher education funding constitutional protection and altering the popular TOPS tuition program.
He said state funding for higher education has fallen to a level equaling the lows during the oil bust that hamstrung the state in the 1980s.
Moffett said universities in the UL System, which includes McNeese State University, are behind their Southern Regional Education Board counterparts when it comes to charging tuition.
“I think we need to move the tuition issue from the Legislature. We’ve tried. Let our schools operate, to a degree, like a private enterprise, which is where they’re heading,” said Moffett, who served as president of Southeastern Louisiana University before taking the UL System post. “The best example of controlling costs and managing those are your auxiliary services on campus like housing and food services. That’s not regulated by the Legislature, and no university president in his right mind is going to price himself out of business ... . Let the market drive it.”
The risk there is that if colleges are given more latitude to raise tuition, state lawmakers may be tempted to cut state funding of the universities.
According to Moffett, funding of post-secondary education has flipped from 62 percent state funds and 38 percent self-generated funds to 62 percent self-generated funds and 38 percent state funds.
Higher education and health care are the two big-ticket items that are not constitutionally protected from cuts, hence Moffett’s push to provide that benefit for higher ed. Reality, though, suggests that it’s impractical to add that status to any other facet of the state budget.
Moffett’s TOPS suggestion has merit. He believes requirements for TOPS eligibility should be increased.
“You’ve got students that get TOPS from year to year based on admission standards, but not the admission to their four-year university. That makes no sense to me,” he said.
But it’s an Everest-like mountain to scale, since it would take a vote of the Legislature to change TOPS, a notion that Gov. Bobby Jindal has opposed.
Moffett said higher education institutions should be allowed to keep a fund balance during years of surplus, which has been rare of late.
Because of the financially strapped state budget, the UL System has cut 217 academic programs, furloughed employees, incentivized retirement, restructured administrative offices, increased admission standards and expanded partnerships with community colleges and online degree programs, Moffett said.
Moffett has produced an enviable track record during his stint as the head of the UL System. Even as he heads into retirement, his advice should be taken to heart.
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, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Dennis Spears, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.
Posted By: dee richard On: 8/8/2012
strange how he doesnt mention the fact that we have too many four-year universities. we probably have too many managing boards.