Our Views: A bad deal for colleges

We hope that leaders in higher education are aware of the story of the Trojan horse, for two of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s floorleaders are wheeling such a dangerous gift up to the gates of the state university system.

In exchange for a promise — difficult to deliver, we might note — to seek to allow universities to raise tuition without a vote of the Legislature, the two lawmakers propose an “outcome-based model” that would cut state support for colleges if they don’t meet new performance standards on graduation rates.

Sounds good? In the story of Troy, the Greeks referred to the “horse-taming Trojans.” That is why the treacherous gift was a giant horse, the thing that was most prized by the victims of the ruse.

Tuition increases are desperately needed by colleges as Jindal and lawmakers cut state aid — again.

Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, and Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, are building an “outcome-based” Trojan horse that is baited with a promise of tuition increases. College leaders would be gullible indeed to fall for it.

The colleges have been battered by years of budget cuts from Jindal, cheered along by Appel and Carter, chairmen of the House and Senate education committees. These are state leaders who have, with budget cuts, demonstrated their hostility to higher education.

Now they want, under the guise of accountability, to have the Legislature directly writing the funding formula for higher education?

The 1974 Constitution intended for the Board of Regents to provide a master plan and funding formula for higher education. Maybe that hasn’t worked out as well as hoped — politics has gotten in the way, and higher education leaders have not pushed back enough against funding cuts and political micromanagement. Jindal has sharply reduced state aid to colleges, although he has — sometimes grudgingly — backed tuition increases to make up some of the difference. Those already have been tied to performance standards.

As Jindal recently noted, graduation rates are up as colleges are responding to the performance standards. Appel and Carter would inject lawmakers into the decisions of the Regents and college leaders.

If you want a completely political system based on the whim of legislators, take this Trojan horse for a ride in the State Capitol rodeo.