Adequate education funding essential
Funding for higher education in Louisiana has stabilized over the last two years, but that isn’t enough to ensure that prospective students get the quality education they deserve. McNeese State University, for example, is trying to raise funds locally to do some of the necessary extras that have gone unfunded for nearly a decade.
Gov. John Bel Edwards told the state Board of Regents recently there has been little construction on college campuses unless it was funded by student fees or with major donations. As for the future, he said the possibility of additional higher education funding would depend on next year’s revenues.
The prospect of additional taxation is out of the question since 2019 is an election year and lawmakers struggled this year to get a 0.45 percent increase in the state’s sales tax.
If there are additional revenues next year, Edwards indicated K-12 education would have the highest priority. Those grades haven’t received their 2.75 percent annual increase for a number of years. If they get it next year, the governor said half of it could be used for long-overdue teacher pay increases.
Higher education institutions can only hope there are sufficient revenues to also give them some extra funding. Robert Levy, chairman of the Board of Regents, said colleges and universities desperately need new dollars.
Meanwhile, Edwards told the regents he hopes to strengthen Louisiana’s online college offerings to give citizens with some college preparation an opportunity to get their degrees. The Advocate noted that possibility has been a frequent topic for Monty Sullivan, president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System.
Sullivan has helped take his system to a new level of achievement that is quickly training people for jobs that have been hard to fill. Locally, there has been increased cooperation between Sowela Technical Community College and McNeese. The leaders of both institutions are coming up with new ways to increase local funding and get more students enrolled.
While all of these moves are commendable, it doesn’t relieve the state of its responsibility to find increased funding for K-12 and higher education. Both are the major avenues for giving Louisiana citizens their best opportunity to live full and productive lives.