EDITORIAL: Wrong way on higher ed



A flurry of activity in Baton Rouge this week indicates the jitters preceding Friday’s scheduled release of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s budget.

The state’s higher education leaders were scheduled to deliver to Jindal and the Legislature a letter emphasizing the harm further cuts will mean.

The search committee tasked with finding a new president for Grambling State University wants more time before announcing the names of applicants, fearing some will back out over the uncertainty of funding.

Higher education officials also proposed looking at duplication of services within state institutions, which could mean a closer relationship between the University of Louisiana at Monroe and Louisiana Delta Community College, with Delta perhaps taking a greater load of offering core curriculum choices instead of ULM.

Just how severe the cuts to higher education will be should become clearer on Friday, but until then speculation has been rampant. Reports have been that cuts to campuses will be as large as $500 million. Incorporating 40 percent to 60 percent cuts into a university budget, however, will be almost impossible, according to University of Louisiana System President Sandra Woodley.

The chaos in higher education comes at a time when state officials constantly remind us that the state suffers from a lack of a trained workforce to suit the needs of employers. This case of having your cake and eating it, too, reflects Jindal’s passive approach to the state’s finances.

The argument that the state is in need of a trained workforce goes to the heart of the issue. The state needs to find ways to increase its investment in education. This constant retrenchment in higher education serves no one.

Students are deprived of a first-class education, institutions have difficulty retaining top faculty, employers can’t find the trained workers they need and state officials bankrupt our future by continuing to cut away.

High-paying jobs and the retention of our best and brightest depend on a vital higher education system. In Louisiana, unfortunately, we’re watching it wither instead.

The editorials in this column represent the opinions of The News-Star’s editorial board, composed of General Manager and Executive Editor Kathy Spurlock, Business and Politics Reporter Greg Hilburn and Education Reporter Barbara Leader.