LSU, my alma mater, has one fine baseball team this year, but all is not well on the academic side of campus.
The legislative session ended on June 6, but the attack against Louisiana colleges and universities continues.
Let me be very clear: your local university is dying, and this session did nothing to revive it or any other starving Louisiana university. Louisiana schools may have been given the final blow with this year’s budget.
The best analysis comes from Jan Moller of the Louisiana Budget Project who said recently that Louisiana higher education was slated to receive $204 million in state funds (2.7 percent of the General Fund) during the coming fiscal year.
Keep in mind that higher education received about $1.5 billion in state funding in 2009 (18 percent of the General Fund).
As Moller points out, we are funding Louisiana higher education at the lowest level since the 1950s.
This tells me Gov. Bobby Jindal and the legislators are deliberately killing LSU and other state universities. I cannot interpret the budget otherwise.
Community colleges, on the other hand, were given $250 million to build campuses, and they will get the money separate from the Capital Outlay Budget, an act that may harm the state’s bond rating.
It sounds great on the surface, but this is an irresponsible plan that will build “ghost campuses.” Ghost campuses are fancy buildings without adequate faculty to teach students.
Colleges need students and qualified professors. This building boom is a bust without good students and compensated faculty. Though I am sure well-connected building contractors are pleased about the newfound pork, there is no money to hire professors for the new classrooms.
In a death blow to higher education, Senate Bill 16, a retirement bill, did not pass. Thus, new higher education employees electing to take the defined contribution plan (Optional Retirement Program), which about half of the employees choose because of portability, will get a 1.8 percent retirement “match” and no Social Security benefits beginning July 1, 2014.
Louisiana higher education will have the least-attractive benefits package in North America. I challenge anyone to find a more paltry retirement plan at any legitimate university in the United States or Canada. Simply put, men and women with any intelligence will find another place to work — a place outside of the Bayou State.
We have a problem with priorities in our state. And one day there will be no “flagship” to launch a successful baseball team or a young life. Shame on us, the citizens of Louisiana, for letting this happen.
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