This letter should add additional information relative to the apparent response of your paper to the question: Are there too many universities in Louisiana? (The Advocate, Jan. 23).
Indeed, the report echoed a claim that Louisiana’s population is approximately one fourth of Florida’s, and yet Louisiana has 14 four-year universities, while Florida has 12.
Subsequent discussions in the report alluded to attempts to save money by consolidating or merging institutions in Louisiana. An expert is quoted as basically blaming the many Louisiana four-year institutions for the current, financially crippled state of higher education in the state.
This letter comes to totally dispel such claims with factual information and that the use of Florida higher education as a scapegoat for utterly misinformed or blatantly irresponsible decision-making will begin to be owned by their perpetrators, whether they are state administrators, lawmakers, experts or anyone else.
Let me assert that Florida does not have just 12 four-year institutions in the State University System of Florida. It has 14. The wrong number of 12 is obtained by counting the University of South Florida as one institution, but it is not. In addition to the main campus, there are two other campuses in two different locations with separate accreditations and listed separately in the last state appropriation bill. If these institutions are not separately counted, then those in the LSU or the Southern System will add up to one.
The cost-related claims based on the above numbers of institutions, the 14 in Louisiana and the 14 in Florida, are totally false. The absurdity of these claims resides in the fact that the referenced 14 institutions in Florida received a total of $1.738 billion in funding, just for their routine operating budgets, excluding hundreds of millions in special research and other centers. This amount is four times larger than the paltry $405 million, as per your report, for the 14 four-year and 10 two-year institutions in Louisiana. Comparisons with Florida become unbearable to someone who knows that the second system of higher education in Florida, the Florida College System, counts 28 institutions, 24 of which offer bachelor’s degrees in addition to associate degrees and certificates.
These institutions literally blanket Florida. The funding of these institutions was $877.4 million as per the last appropriation bill, more than twice that of Louisiana institutions. Adding numbers up, we find that last year’s basic funding of Florida higher education was over $2.6 billion, 6.4 times the pittance provided to Louisiana higher education.
With the above numbers, let the scapegoating cease once and for all.
Diola Bagayoko, Ph.D.
Southern University System distinguished professor of physics Baton Rouge