Public higher education in Louisiana is in big trouble. This is hardly shocking. We have all followed the headlines over the past eight years as $700 million has been slashed from our state’s colleges and universities, representing the largest disinvestment by any state in the country. The results have been larger classes, fewer faculty members, neglected campus buildings, discontinued programs and higher tuition.
Our institutions are being starved and they’re in danger of losing even more state support before the end of the current fiscal year. How bad is it? State funding for my alma mater, the University of New Orleans, has been cut approximately $40 million in the past eight years. Is it any wonder that our colleges are struggling to furnish the same education that they once could?
As a master’s student at the University of New Orleans from 1980-1982, in the College of Urban and Public Affairs, I worked closely with distinguished faculty who were sought after by communities around the state to help address their most challenging urban issues. The rigor, relevance and value of the UNO education that I received was hard to match and, in spite of massive budget cuts, the university continues that tradition today.
The impact that UNO, the state’s only public urban research university, has on the city and the region is profound. We, the UNO alumni — with 35,000 alone in metro New Orleans — fuel this economy and serve as leaders in professional sectors including accounting, banking, education, technology, engineering, tourism, and arts and culture. There would be no National World War II Museum, now the city’s No. 1 tourism destination and the 15th most visited destination in the U.S., without the vision and drive of two UNO professors, Stephen Ambrose and Nick Mueller.
Enough is enough. It’s time for graduates of all of the state’s colleges and universities to step up. Public higher education has given so much to me and so many others, including a large number of lawmakers representing us in the Louisiana Senate and House of Representatives. Our alumni help grow companies, stimulate our economy and enhance our quality of life in the state. If public higher education in Louisiana is in trouble, then the entire state — every adult, child and business — is also in peril. Contact your state legislators and let them know that you won’t stand for any more cuts to Louisiana’s colleges and universities.
principal, The Johnson Group