Over the last few years, funding for higher education in Louisiana has been reduced. Many bemoan the negative effect these cuts will have on Louisiana. As most agree that an educated populace is the foundation of a successful country, it does seem short-sighted, some say catastrophic, to reduce funding for higher education. But can the case be made that these funding cuts could be a good thing? Let me try.
First, there are too many four-year institutions. Using community colleges to feed a few big schools will save a lot of money. Education funding cuts could force the reversal of the unwise expansion of four-year institutions that has occurred over the last few decades. So, there is at least one possible good thing about budget cuts.
Secondly, even if the number of four-year institutions were reduced, you’d still have significant waste, perhaps especially at four-year institutions like LSU. Many factors make modern academia inefficient and more expensive than it needs to be. For example, assume the best instructor in a given department makes $10,000/semester to teach a three-hour course. Within the same department, an ineffective tenured professor makes $50,000 to teach his/her one course that semester. When budget cuts are imposed, what SHOULD be done (the underperforming tenured professor is fired and some of the superfluous administrators are let go) versus what IS done (the instructor is let go, or infrastructure that is worn out is not replaced) makes anyone really interested in high-quality higher education quite mad.
So, will budget cuts hurt the quality of education? Probably the answer is yes. But it COULD be possible to give much more education/dollar if real “progressive” solutions were applied to education. Those solutions would involve lowering administrative overhead, eliminating tenure and eliminating some departments altogether. If such changes were made, good quality education could be delivered, even with the budget cuts of the last few years.
Disclosure: I was once a tenured faculty member at LSU and can’t think of a single case in my 15 years where tenure was a good thing.
president, local engineering company