With our higher education institutions in peril, the future of our state is bleak. Manpower studies show that while 86 percent of the jobs in the state require at least a high school diploma, our population has fewer than 50 percent. In bachelor’s degrees as well, our state’s 21 percent ranks near the bottom in the country. As against a general perception that we have too many two- and four-year colleges, we do not have enough for the need. In a poor state, many will not be able to get these credentials if our institutions were only in four or five major towns.
In the past five years, state funding of higher education has been cut from $150 million to about half, with prospects now for worse, the actual appropriation for next year a “bizarre” $123 million. In complete contrast to myths about bloat, colleges have lost 4,600 employees in the past five years while handling more students. Faculty and staff salaries are below even the Southern average. Which business would be able to operate in this manner?
There was no call for this. In spite of the drop in oil revenues, actual state revenues are up slightly in 2015 and 2016. The problem is entirely one of politics and of choices made by our governor and Legislature. They, and the boards that they have stacked with spineless businessmen who would not countenance such treatment of their own businesses but have remained silent, are solely to blame for our sorry state.
In any business, these actions of our governor, legislators and boards would have been declared as gross negligence and incompetence, and the whole lot fired. Leave alone any vision for what this state’s future requires, the governor lacks judgment even on his own personal ambition, the altar on which these sacrifices are being performed. There is more chance of finding a sno-ball in a New Orleans summer than of his being president.