In his New Year’s Day commentary, Garey Forster decried the academic ranking of LSU by U.S. News and World Report at 153rd out of 209 national universities. I agree with him. It is a terrible number.
As usual for Forster, however, the villain in this story is Gov. Edwards. “Legislators and Edwards don’t appear to care about the competitive nature of academics in pursuit of jobs…”, “…past years of Gov. Edwards’ indecision,” “Seems like the governor only wants to celebrate LSU’s athletic accomplishments.”
The true villain in this story is lack of funding. Taking the period from 2008 to 2018, the latest I can find, Louisiana state support for higher education decreased by 38.3% ($4,454), second-most in the nation. During that same period, student tuition at Louisiana public four-year colleges increased by 105.9% ($4,810), the most percentagewise and second-most by dollars of any state in the nation.
As a percentage of median household income, in 2017 the average net price of attendance at a public four-year university in Louisiana was tied for seventh-highest in the nation, at 30%. In comparison, 10 states, including Florida, Texas, New York, Utah, California and Washington, were 20% or less.
We under-support our state universities and over-charge students. The LSU library has water leaks and the LSU football locker room is world-class. Our priorities are pretty clear.
We know we can’t raise taxes. No tax increase can ever get through the Louisiana legislature. In fact, it has been reported that there are proposals coming to eliminate the state income tax entirely, supposedly creating a huge boost in state revenues due to a surge of business activity. Didn’t they try that in Kansas, with the result that state support to education dropped so low that the courts declared it unconstitutional and Kansas had to raise taxes? (Gasp!)
How about this? For every dollar donated to LSU athletics, half is diverted to academics. If you want to support the football team, great. But you have to support academics as well.
After all, if NCAA football players are truly “student-athletes” shouldn’t the “student” part be as important as the “athlete” part?
CARL EYMAN III