Kickoff time set for 2:30 p.m. as South Carolina to play LSU in Tiger Stadium this Saturday _lowres

Aerial of Tiger Stadium on LSU's campus in Baton Rouge, Tuesday, September 1, 2015.

Advocate staff photo by Hilary Scheinuk

Louisianans should feel proud that their flagship more than holds its own compared to many of this nation’s most prestigious public and private universities. In fact, a degree from LSU has never carried more value than it does today, and we expect that value to continue growing, provided our state continues to support our teaching and research — the tools we use to bolster our state’s economy.

LSU provides a nationally competitive education, as evidenced by our strong history of students who have been awarded some of the country’s most prestigious scholarships, such as Truman, Goldwater, Olmsted and Gates Cambridge. LSU students pay in-state tuition that ranks 22 percent less than the national flagship average. And when they graduate — at rates higher than the national average — our students are poised to enter the job market unburdened. Only 35 percent of our students graduate with debt, and for those who do finance their educations, their debt is 46 percent less than the national average. Their LSU degree also translates into starting salaries that rank above peers graduating from flagship universities in Alabama, North Carolina and Ohio State, and mid-career salaries approaching $90,000.

Forbes’ “Smarter College Guide” recently ranked LSU 35th in Best Value, above universities such UCLA, Indiana, Purdue, Virginia and UC-Berkeley, to name a few. And if you look at the new and improved College Scorecard, which was just released from the White House and Department of Education, you will see an LSU degree has one of the best rates of return among flagship universities and that it beats the national average in every value-based metric that counts, including graduation rate, salaries after graduation, percent of students carrying debt and dollar amount of debt carried.

But we don’t stop there. The research contributed by LSU’s faculty provides solutions for the social and economic challenges facing our state. Obesity and diabetes are chronic challenges faced by our residents; LSU researchers lead the nation in providing novel research aiding in drug development and disease prevention. We build biomedical networks across the state to mitigate diseases ranging from West Nile to Ebola and help to meet Louisiana’s shortage of trained biomedical professionals. Our experts contribute exponentially to the state’s nearly $13 billion agricultural industry through developing new species of drought and disease-resistant crops and assisting local farmers with the newest tools and technology available for their needs. And our faculty’s scholarly work contributes to and helps preserve the unique culture of our state through art, music and literature.

In addition to all of this, LSU provides an exceptional workforce, attracts industries to the state and builds new ones through the ambitions and talents of our graduates. We also provide a return of $5 to every $1 our state government invests in an LSU education. What other type of investment supports Louisiana in so many tangible and intangible ways?

And we do this all with some of the lowest state support in the country. Imagine what we could do if we were funded at levels equal to the national average of our peers.

Our alumni have landed a rover on Mars. They have written Academy Award winning musical scores and New York Times best-selling novels. They run Fortune 500 companies and lead the way to scientific and medical breakthroughs, among many other achievements. Our faculty have helped to lower our violent crime rates, slow our coastal land loss, improve our protection against hurricanes and develop new drugs that improve our quality of life. I hope you join me in recognizing the tremendous value LSU delivers to our state and continue to support LSU’s efforts to make Louisiana an even more competitive and vibrant place to live, learn and work.

F. King Alexander is president of LSU.