Has the Louisiana Board of Regents lost its way with regard to the administration of the state’s endowed professorships program?
According to an Aug. 24 Advocate article, there appears to be great doubt as to when, if ever, the board will provide the state match for the backlog of 348 endowed professorships owned by public and private universities across the state.
Under the endowed professorship program, a professorship is created by a private donation of $60,000 to a public or private university which is then matched by a $40,000 state contribution from interest earned on the state 8g offshore settlement fund established in 1986. It should be remembered that one of the original intentions of the authors of the legislation that dedicated the 8g fund to education was to improve the quality of the faculty at LSU and the other public universities.
Evidence of the original legislative intent can be found in the 1989 law titled “Louisiana University Faculty Incentive Program.” The law encouraged the board to use 8g money to match private donations for endowed professorships. The statute clearly gave priority for funding the professorships to the public universities over the private universities.
For what better purpose is the board now using the $30 million-plus it receives each year from the ever-increasing-in-value $1 billion-plus 8g fund? Surely, quality faculty is the foundation on which a quality university is built. The current position of the board is either a breach of contract or a breach of trust with the good faith donors who gave in reliance on the state’s word that the state match was forthcoming.
Private donors should not have to wait 20 years (board staff suggestion) or even 12 years (donor group suggestion) for their dream of an endowed professorship to come true. At that rate, many of the donors will never live to see the state match become a reality.
The regents have indeed lost their way. During this era of low state funding of higher education, the board should be doing everything it can to encourage — not discourage — private donations to our underfunded public universities.
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