LSU President F. King Alexander stressed the federal government's role in higher education funding on Wednesday, in an opinion piece he penned for the Washington Post.
In Louisiana, state officials have aggressively withdrawn more than 50 percent of state dollars to support higher education over the past nine years, resulting in dramatic upticks in tuition and fees on the backs of students.
While not naming LSU or Louisiana specifically, Alexander touches on this trend nationwide, and said the federal government has a role in keeping state investment in check.
"This is a simple concept already used to encourage state funding for healthcare, highways and hospitals. Simply put, it leverages federal dollars to incentivize states to maintain at least a base level of funding for their public colleges and universities," he wrote.
He cited an example in 2007, when a provision was tied the the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act allowing states to use stimulus funds only if they maintained higher education budgets at the 2006 state funding levels.
"Just months after Congress passed ARRA, many states cut their higher education budgets to the very edge of those federal penalties, some within mere dollars. These examples are proof that federal-state partnerships don’t just work, they work well and they work fast," he wrote.
King also noted that higher education is becoming inaccessibly expensive to many Americans.
As Democrats looking forward to the election of a new U.S. President this fall are excitedly discussing the possibility of "free college," he noted that federal-state partnerships are the foundation of such a plan.
"If states continue on their current funding trajectory, the costs associated with any discussion about offering a free college education would be astronomical for the federal government. That’s why the federal-state partnership is so important. This partnership will ensure that quality and affordable public college and university options remain available for generations to come by rewarding states that maintain their investment responsibilities to public higher education," he wrote.