What’s wrong with this picture? State colleges in financial distress go to the responsible parties, legislators who have again and again cut college funding, and are told that raising tuition is impossible.
The same legislators who created the financial problem then parade themselves as protectors of the families that pay Louisiana’s ever-rising college tuitions.
Gov. Bobby Jindal and lawmakers have reduced state funds for higher education.The total is about $625 million, the commissioner of higher education told lawmakers.
The commissioner, Jim Purcell, was asking lawmakers to allow colleges to raise tuition without a two-thirds vote of the Legislature.
The tuition increases that would ensue are not, obviously, up to an infinite number, because colleges do operate in a market for their services. But even that kind of financial relief is apparently not in the political cards.
Lawmakers responded coolly to the idea that they should give up some of their power — that two-thirds vote required to raise tuition. Lawmakers cling to that little extortionate bit of power, even at the cost of the competitiveness of colleges in the future.
And several lawmakers had the nerve to say that raising tuition is resented by their constituents.
Legislators want it both ways, the definition of hypocrisy. They want to be popular via tax cuts, and make pompous speeches about efficiency in declining colleges. And they want to be able to say that they’re against tuition increases.
What dishonesty all around.
Some of the blame for this crisis lies with Jindal, who backed tax cuts and corporate breaks that have made colleges Target No. 1 when the budget must be cut.
But Jindal at least occasionally backed tuition increases, even if he also dishonestly calls that money “state support” for higher education.
What is lost in the iniquitous politics of the Louisiana Legislature is the future.
Today’s students are working toward degrees that will be worth less because of these lawmakers’ shortsighted and utterly political attitudes toward the state’s future.
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