The P Word (Privatization) Part II

In case anyone missed it last week, our state’s newspaper of record reminded us yet again today that our Board of Regents has “instructed” institutions to consider privatizing.

In this context, reading between the lines of LSU President F. King Alexander’s message to the LSU community and stakeholders, it’s hard not to interpret phrases like, “a transformational shift in the way higher education is being funded in our state” and “embrace new and innovative solutions” as referring to anything other than privatization.

Of course, LSU will not be fully privatized. GRAD Act and the state admission standards ensure that LSU will be able to thrive at least as far as its access to a large enough pool of admissible students to remain more than viable. Our state statutes also protect LSU as the “premier flagship university for the state.” Students and their families will be expected to pay more for the privilege of attending, however. LSU may be Forever LSU, but RS17:3215(1) doesn’t say that the state has to bear the burden of actually funding the flagship. Wanna Live Purple? Give Up the Gold.

Higher education has been backed into a corner that they’ve been backing into for the entirety of Jindal’s term. The corner arrived just in time for Jindal’s last legislative session as governor. While Jindal’s power is obviously on the decline even within his own party, his ability to nail the last nail in our public higher education system’s coffin should not be underestimated.

I understand that higher education leaders have to play politics because it comes with the territory. They have to alleviate student, faculty, staff, parent, and donor concerns, or else risk making a bad situation worse.

However, this also plays right into our administration’s hand.

By the way, something else was released last week besides the executive budget.

The state’s fall student profile and enrollment data for all its higher education institutions.

They, along with other data that are available show how our state has begun reshaping its student profile by gradually restricting access to higher education over the last several years. The full impact was shielded from some student groups, some geographic regions, and even some institutions. But the erosion of higher education from its margins in toward the core… from those who need affordable, comprehensive, public higher education the most… is apparent especially when looking beyond just overall headcounts.

We are losing students.

Stay tuned. It may be a few days before I post again but I promise that when I do, it will be worth the wait.

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