Find money for higher education

The American Press

<p class="indent"><span>We</span> are on the bottom.” Every university president in Louisiana could have said those words that were spoken last week by LSU President F. King Alexander.</p><p class="indent">It will take years for higher education institutions in the state to recover from the disastrous budget cuts experienced during the Bobby Jindal administration.</p><p class="indent">“That is how you go from an 80-20 split, where the state is paying 80 percent, and now they are paying 20 percent and the students are paying 80 percent,” Alexander told the state Board of Regents.</p><p class="indent">State aid during that period dropped from $1.5 billion to $832 million, and The Advocate said the backlog of capital needs continues to rise.</p><p class="indent">The newspaper said state aid has been static for the past two years, which higher education officials have seen as something of a victory.</p><p class="indent">Gov. John Bel Edwards and members of the Legislature have stabilized higher education budgets, but there in no extra money for increasing those budgets. Edwards favors increases but K-12 education that hasn’t had annual increases in its funding is his first priority.</p><p class="indent">The Advocate reported that state assistance for LSU, about $130 million, held steady for the past two years, but that followed 16 reductions over nearly 10 years. Alexander said that left LSU last in the Southeastern Conference in state spending per student and next to last nationally among peer institutions.</p><p class="indent">Faculty pay is a major area of concern, Alexander said. Average pay is 12th of 14 schools in the SEC. That, too, is a reality at all state colleges and universities that have experienced the loss of faculty during those budget-cut years.</p><p class="indent">“We know faculty are incredibly mobile,” he said. “We have to give them a dose of hope and optimism. We have to work to keep them.”</p><p class="indent">Deferred maintenance at all higher education institutions is another major problem. The longer it takes to return facilities to their desired level, the more renovation and repair work costs.</p><p class="indent">Edwards said a $300 million budget surplus from the last fiscal year can be used for one-time construction projects and building repairs. Meanwhile, instead of complaining about the budget surplus, the governor’s legislative critics should be trying to find revenues to help get higher education funding back on track.</p><hr /><p class="indent">This editorial was written by a member of the <em>American Press</em> Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include <strong>Crystal Stevenson</strong>, <strong>John Guidroz</strong>, retired editor <strong>Jim Beam</strong> and retired staff writer <strong>Mike Jones</strong>.</p>””Higher Education graphic

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