Jindal’s New Plan to Close the Higher Ed Funding Gap… Propose Stuff We’re Doing Already!

Bobby Jindal’s latest big plan to fund higher education?

Make students and families pay more!

And give more tax breaks away!

Now that he’s kicked the proverbial can to a dead end, his plan is now to pick it up and hand it to the Louisiana citizens he was elected twice to serve to clean up the mess for him.

So let’s break this big plan down, shall we?

Higher Tuition for More Expensive Programs

These “more expensive programs” include STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Funny thing is, these are also the programs that tend to bring in more sponsored programs aka research grants. They are more capital intensive, but their faculty–if you can attract and retain good ones–also bring in grants and further research on their universities. In most Louisiana universities, these research grants don’t just benefit faculty and graduate students, but enhance undergraduate learning as well.

And in a state which has a great deal of STEM related industry (petrochemical and healthcare among them), well, wouldn’t it make sense to support them on the university level? Not just have students pay even more for them than they already are because tuition has already gone up significantly since Jindal took office?

(Not to disparage the humanities because they are revenue-generators as well. They cost less money and generate more credit hour revenue than STEM disciplines. They’re just not known for bringing in the amount of grant funding that STEM disciplines do.)

I’m actually not opposed to universities charging fees for more capital intensive classes… but this is Jindal saying that even more of the burden should be on students because he’s run out of cash and ideas to fund our universities and their programs properly.

Although it does kind of reverse the whole thinking behind the WISE program which was supposed to help subsidize STEM and other “job creating” programs on our universities but is unlikely to survive this year’s budget blood bath. Wait… maybe these new fees will pay for WISE! That’s a great idea! Let students and families pay for their own job creation!

Not to mention that Florida (governed by another conservative Republican no less) has proposed INCENTIVES for STEM students to try to train more students for jobs.

Also.. and this is a big one… students already pay more for some of these classes. Through course and lab fees. I was paying those back when I was an undergrad a gazillion years ago, and they still exist today. They are meant to offset the higher cost of some of these courses.

So, if it means more English majors, I’m all for it. Or more philosophy or foreign language… oh, dang, we closed most of those already.

More Student Fees

Any student on TOPS knows that this is already happening. TOPS pays for TUITION. It does not pay for all FEES. Some of our state universities have student assessed fees–those which the student bodies vote to take on–but many of those are because our state no longer pays for things that frankly it should. Like adequate buildings. Or the university’s bus system. That beautiful new Student Union on UL Lafayette’s campus? UL’s students have been paying for that for years. And before anyone says this was an unwise time to do this just think that maybe those funds would have been swept too. Better off that UL students got the union that THEY PAID FOR. Its students knew that if they didn’t pay for it they’d never get one.

Back to fees… here’s a breakdown of all the fees at LSU. This is typical. Maybe Jindal forgot about these in his recent Morning Joe interview when LSU’s tuition and fees were magically halved.

I should show up at LSU and ask for the Bobby Jindal half-off special. Wonder if I can find a coupon code for that. “Hey, here, it’s on YouTube!”

Tax Breaks for Businesses who Give to Colleges

This is my favorite because they already get one. It’s called a charitable donation. State colleges and universities, not to mention most privates, are not-for-profit entities. (A fact that Jindal may have forgotten since he’s all amp’ed on the for-profit education industry.) If you, or your business, donates money to a university foundation for a scholarship or to buy laptops or set up a big fancy petrochemical lab with a pretty green sunflower on top, YOU CAN ALREADY WRITE IT OFF ON YOUR TAXES.

What this means is that businesses would get ANOTHER tax break from the state. Uh, isn’t that part of the reason we are in the pickle we are in now? And since it’s “revenue neutral” it means that for every dollar universities get from a non-state source, state dollars are taken away.

It also means that only SOME universities would get this. Just like we are now scratching and clawing for the same students (see my previous post), we will be scratching and clawing for charitable donations too. Like we aren’t already. Because donations are just that… donations. They are voluntary. They aren’t guaranteed.

It makes a good headline. Google it. “Bobby Jindal considers new tax breaks for colleges” is on most of the state’s news sites. But they can already get one. Brilliant plan.

So to sum up… colleges and universities already charge fees for more expensive programs (often called a “lab fee”), already charge more fees overall, and corporations already get tax breaks for donating to colleges.

That’s what we call revenue neutral.

$380 million budget cut minus zero is still $380 million.

Oh wait! It’s now up to $420 million!

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