Gov. Bobby Jindal appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Tuesday to talk 2016, Common Core and the state budget crisis.
But the two-term governor eyeing a run for president next year seemed to be a bit stumped by one question from host Joe Scarborough: How much does it cost to attend LSU?
“I think it ... I don’t...” Jindal stuttered in response to the question. “It’s certainly well under $10,000, when you look at fees and housing. It’s cheaper than other schools in the south, in the SEC.”
According to LSU’s estimates, with housing, fees and books, it costs $20,564 a year to attend LSU.
Jindal spokeswoman Shannon Bates Dirmann said after the appearance that Jindal misspoke and wasn’t referring to housing costs in his estimate.
“The governor was referring to fees and tuition,” she told The Advocate by phone. “The state doesn’t control housing costs.”
LSU’s tuition schedule shows full-time, in-state students will pay about $8,700 in tuition and fees this school year, not counting housing costs.
According to statistics from The College Board, a national nonprofit, Louisiana has the nation’s 14th-lowest four-year, in-state rates for tuition and fees. For comparison, the University of Alabama estimates its annual tuition and fees for the current school year at about $10,626. Tuition and fees at the University of Arkansas average about $8,210 this year.
But the state also has seen the steepest tuition increase over the past five years. Tuition and fees were about $5,000 at LSU during the 2008 school year — the year Jindal took office as governor.
The MSNBC appearance was one of a few Jindal made while traveling to Washington, D.C., and New York City this week for events related to his nonprofit America Next policy think tank.
The discussion over how much it costs to attend LSU lasted just a few minutes on MSNBC, but Democrats and others quickly pounced on the fact that Jindal — who is known to frequently spout off numbers and figures related to the budget — didn’t seem to have that answer so clearly in mind.
“Perhaps Governor Jindal should spend more time here in Louisiana, focused on the budget crisis he’s created and the crippling cuts facing our colleges and universities, rather than rubbing elbows with D.C. media folks,” Louisiana Democratic Party spokesman Stephen Handwerk said in a statement. “Tuition has nearly doubled since Jindal took office, and those tuition hikes are essentially tax increases on the working families of this state.”
Louisiana has seen repeated cuts to higher education in recent years and repeated tuition hikes to address those cuts. Louisiana faces a further $1.6 billion shortfall in the coming fiscal year.
In the TV appearance, Jindal defended the state budget situation, despite looming threats of cuts.
“I campaigned on the promise that we would shrink the size of government, grow the private sector economy,” Jindal said. “That’s exactly what we’ve done.”
Jindal will release a budget proposal on Feb. 27, but he wouldn’t say what it might include. Nor would he directly address the threat to higher education funding.
Overall, Scarborough had high praise for Jindal after the interview.
“I learned that Bobby Jindal should not be underestimated,” he said. “He’s one of the smartest politicians I think we have interviewed.”