I Was Right! I Was Right! But I Wish I Was Wrong…

Back in 2009 and 2010, the years after Stelly was repealed and Bobby Jindal made his initial cuts to higher education, and then proposed GRAD Act I, I was also online making a big stink about it and what Jindal’s motivations were. I wrote a couple of blog posts on the well-known progressive site Daily Kos, as well as on Talk to Action, a lesser known but just as important site exposing the political ambitions and aspirations of the theocratic Christian nationalist movement in the U.S. (think about the folks who brought you Bobby Jindal’s “The Response” several weeks back).

I’ve gone back and re-read those posts and I have to say I had pretty much nailed what the impact would be. If anything, I was quite conservative about it. My area of expertise is in enrollment management so it wouldn’t be too surprising if I got the impact on enrollment and retention right. But even some of the things outside my realm of expertise I predicted, notably on finances and faculty affairs.

Here are a few nuggets and you tell me if I was wrong…

On Louisiana’s lopsided mix of publics and privates, meaning that Louisiana needs more public institutions than other similar sized states, and my argument that cutting publics would send TOPS eligible students out of state because there aren’t enough private options for them:

Supporters of Jindal’s plan state that Louisiana has too many state-supported higher education institutions for its population, partially due to the continued existence of geographically proximal state-supported HBCUs. This is true. However, most other states have more higher education institutions after factoring in both publics and privates. There are very few privates in Louisiana, and outside of Tulane most are relatively small and regionally based. Some of the state’s larger population centers, like Lafayette, don’t have any private four-year educational institutions apart from the publics. Baton Rouge has one allied health school affiliated with a local hospital system… The only major Louisiana city with a more typical mixture of publics and privates is New Orleans… This lack of educational infrastructure is unheard of in most other major and mid-major metropolitan areas, including in other states facing similar serious higher education cutbacks. So if state institutions close or are forced to severely cut back on their offerings, there are few to no other options other than going out of state, which would completely negate the TOPS scholarships offered to educationally prepared students in order to keep them in state.

On closing programs and driving faculty out of state… and a political rationale for doing so:

[M]y first thought is that there must be a “Christian” dominionist basis to Jindal’s position, one that he is not acknowledging now publicly and is not generating much discussion among those who are wondering why this former head of the University of Louisiana System seems so hell-bent (which is what his bizarro version of heaven on earth will be) on bleeding state higher ed to death.

Why?

Could it be because higher ed faculty, as a group, in Jindal’s perspective, are a bunch of atheistic, anti-Christian postmodern ideologues who persecute Christians and are promoting the downfall of traditional society, as Talk2Action blogger Frank Cocozzelli discovered he wrote back in 1996?

The wave of political correctness, which has affected universities at every level, has also infected religious and philosophical thought. Whereas Western universities once existed to train clergymen and educate others in the fundamentals of the Christian faith, modern centers of higher learning are much more secular and skeptical toward anything remotely religious. Faith is a taboo subject among many of the educated elite; indeed, persons with strong religious convictions are often viewed with scorn and disapproval. Equating all religious beliefs with the seemingly intolerant attitude of Fundamentalists, the more ardent critics of religion are so bold as to equate faith with ignorance and disparage any attempt to support faith with reason as naive. (Atheism’s Gods, par. 1)

Now thirteen years after he wrote these words, Jindal is in a political position to reshape Louisiana’s institutions of higher learning in another direction… While state-supported higher education in Louisiana will still exist as a skeleton of its former self, the budget cuts as proposed will flush a significant percentage of the “educated elite” aka higher ed faculty and staff out of state, particularly those in the liberal arts and sciences who are more likely to be critical of the “America is a Christian Nation” myth and less likely to be seen as contributing to the state’s bottom line without conversely intellectually challenging the Kingdom According to Bobby and His Dominionist Friends. The LITE Center can stay; philosophy majors and the LSU Press have to go.

On the disproportionate impact that the GRAD Act linked admission standards would have on African American students and on the state’s HBCUs:

[S]tarting in 2014, nearly 40% fewer Louisiana first time freshmen who currently enroll in a postsecondary institution would be qualified for a 4-year public.  Where now 75% of graduating seniors who go on to a postsecondary institution out of high school (above national average), in 2014 it will be approximately a 50%/50% split (below national average—nationally it’s 60% 4-year/40% 2-year).  And almost 70% fewer of our African-American first time freshmen currently going to postsecondary education would be qualified to go to a four year institution…

Also note that our HBCUs (Southern, Grambling) are all in that regional category.  They will have no discrete traditional first time freshman market, unless you consider a near-literal handful of students a “market.”  NONE.  We are talking in the mid-hundreds who will qualify for “regional only.”  And fewer than 200 African-Americans.  STATEWIDE!!!!  Out of over 40,000 graduating seniors, over 25,000 of whom take a college core prep curriculum!!!  THAT IS NOT A DISCRETE MARKET BUT IS A SHAM!!!  IT IS A CIVIL RIGHTS TRAVESTY LAYING IN WAIT!!!!

2015 note: In order to mitigate the impact, the Louisiana Board of Regents allowed regional institutions to enroll students in the Developmental Education Pilot study, where students within two points of the standard on either the math or English ACT could still be conditionally admitted. I can say that if it were not for the Pilot, we would have seen the impact I predicted in 2010. My institution enrolled one third of its freshman class in the Pilot program. As it was, the state’s three HBCUs experienced a collective drop in freshman enrollment of one third (so if not for the Pilot it might have been two thirds!) and the overall drop of freshman enrollment among the regional institutions was comprised of over 90% African American students.

On where higher education is supposed to come up with $400 million dollars to cut a year (hint: it’s because fewer kids qualify to go to four-year universities in Louisiana in the first place):

The other thing that I did, which is based on publicly available information, is calculate out what the cost savings would be, since expenditures per student is so much lower at 2-year institutions than at 4-years (roughly half).  I’m writing a book here so I will spare you the details, but anyone else can replicate this from Board of Regents and state budget data.  Based on my really quick armchair calculations simply dividing expenditures by enrollment, the state can potentially save at least $400 million per high school graduation class a year.

Oooh, that’s eerie. Isn’t that the budget cut we are staring down? Was I psychic? Or did I just figure out Bobby Jindal’s logic?

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One thought on “I Was Right! I Was Right! But I Wish I Was Wrong…

  1. Pingback: Inside the Board of Regents’ 2015 Legislative Agenda–Asking for GRAD Act Autonomy Institutions Never Got | LA Higher Ed Confessions

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