Bobby Jindal’s Anti-Tax Cult and John White’s “Reformers”: Working Together to Keep More Kids Out of State Universities (Part 1 of 3)

As promised in my last post, I am now going public with the details of the war that I have been semi-privately fighting for the last six years against Bobby Jindal’s destruction of our state’s colleges and universities.

I am doing this despite the fact that in recent months, I have finally gotten an audience with some in higher education leadership who have seen my analyses and are now listening to what I have to say. With a normal administration I would be willing to continue working behind the scenes to try and address the worst of the destructive public policies inherent to GRAD Act and the state four-year university minimum admission criteria.

But we are not dealing with a normal administration.

We are dealing with someone who has covenanted with a religio-political anti-tax cult, and for whom the lives and futures of hundreds of thousands of Louisianians mean nothing in his quixotic quest to become leader of the free world while maintaining absolute purity to the anti-tax cult’s sick ideology. The leader of the group to which Jindal has covenanted with, Grover Norquist, actually prides himself in being called the “The dark wizard of the Right’s anti-tax cult” so I’m not as far out there as it might sound.

Taylor Huckaby’s story struck a deep chord with me because his story was one I had heard time and again when hearing the testimonies of walkaways from actual religious cults. While I work in higher ed administration and am not full-time faculty, I am an academic and my dissertation research involves fringe religious groups and their literature, so I don’t say this at all lightly or without some amount of bonafide expertise.

And I realized that if I didn’t go public with my policy research, no matter how many people in Baton Rouge were starting to agree with me, I would lose. We would lose. Our kids would lose, possibly for generations. Especially our state’s African American students and students in poverty. Because we are not dealing with an executive that values or will react at all appropriately to reason. We are all disposable in the pursuit of the anti-tax cult’s goals and Jindal’s sheer pursuit of power at all costs.

The good thing is, I have dealt with people like Jindal and others in the anti-tax cult before.

What they fear the most are people who are not afraid to speak the truth, cannot be purchased, and cannot be bullied into silence, because these people have nothing to lose and everything to gain by speaking truth to power.

I am not afraid of Bobby Jindal. I am not afraid of what might happen. I know there are people who will be able to figure out who I am really quickly, and will shake their heads at what I am doing and saying, because I was actually starting to accomplish a few things without going public.

But this is no time for compromise. Any compromise. It is time to stand up and say, no more. And it must be done publicly and in the open because Jindal cannot be trusted.

I hope to remain anonymous for as long as possible online, not because I want to protect myself, but I do want to protect the institution that I work for. I am posting as a concerned citizen—albeit one whose perspective is shaped by my position and the data I have access to as a professional—and in no way claim to represent my institution. If my institution suffers in any way from anything I post online, I would rather they fire me or ask me to resign than suffer any more than it already has under the Jindal administration. I am more than ready to sacrifice my job and career, if necessary, for speaking out about what Jindal has done to us in higher education, particularly in unleashing a civil rights travesty upon our state’s college-aspirant students under the guise of education reform.

Any critiques I level at Jindal’s enablers in state government, including John White and the Department of Education whose spin provides perfect cover for the fact that most students graduating from high school in our state no longer qualify for university admission, does not refer at all to the teachers, counselors and professionals I work with every day. They are dedicated to students and work tirelessly to make sure that as many students as possible, including African American students in students in poverty, have access to the full range of postsecondary and career options more readily available to more affluent students. These people know that pundits, politicians and “experts” claiming that we are in a post-racial society or that we can overcome the huge wealth disparities in our state by raising the bar and then asking kids to “rise to the challenge” are either blind, deluded, extremely sheltered, or lying.

But as much as we all advocate for these kids, our hands are tied. The game is rigged.

There are a few lottery winners; a few lucky students who can get out.

But the vast majority don’t because they can’t.

Even though Bobby Jindal and John White might have publicly broken up since Jindal learned that his tin-hat Tea Party base doesn’t see Common Core as all that, he hasn’t fired him yet, either. White’s white, black, and multihued lies provide perfect cover for Jindal to continue destroying our state’s educational system while they both continue to say that it’s improving.

Jindal’s the one though who rigged the game.

This is really important to know as we move toward a more tuition-driven funding model (also known as making students pay more for less). Without significant and immediate changes to legislation and policy this summer, several of our state’s universities will not be able to enroll enough students to make up the difference in funding. Especially our state’s three four-year HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). That is because Bobby Jindal and his signature GRAD Act legislation blocks us from doing so.

In admissions, it is my job to (1) market and recruit qualified students to my institution (2) assess whether the students we actually attract—our prospective students and applicants—can be admitted to my institution—and give every applicant the best allowable chance to get in and (3) get as many qualified, admitted applicants to convert to enrolled students at the beginning of their first semester in college.

This sounds no different than private sector jobs in marketing or sales. And I use a lot of marketing and sales techniques in my job, especially a modified version of a concept marketers call the sales funnel. But I am keenly aware that I’m not selling refrigerators or toothpaste.

I’m selling lives and futures. I’m selling something that can literally make the difference between life and death. That may sound like hyperbole if you are reading this in Covington or Lafayette. But if you are reading this in Baton Rouge or New Orleans you probably know I am not exaggerating.

And for the last year, while we actually don’t “deny” most first time freshmen applicants—we call them referrals to partner community colleges, including one with satellite classes on our campus—we have been turning away far more students from direct admission to four year institutions than we can admit. My institution’s admission rate last fall was well under 40%. The average admission rate for ALL four-year universities in the US is about 64%, and among publics is 67%. So my institution denied (sorry, “referred”) about what most other state universities nationwide admit. And that was with a fairly significant percentage of students who qualified under a special, temporary “pilot” category of admission which I will get into in my next post, where I will delve into some data and discuss how the admission standards actually impacted our institutions once they were fully implemented.

We admitted everyone we legally could. We also made sure that as many non-admitted students as possible went to our partner programs, even though they didn’t count under “our” enrollment. But still, we didn’t capture them all. I just hope that those students ended up enrolling somewhere, including the students that we pleaded with to please go to a community college even though they didn’t want to. But I suspect that many didn’t. As I will show in my next post, the data sadly indicate that’s the case.

This was my first down year in two decades of doing this. I threw everything I had and more to get our class. That’s what it took. For the class that we did enroll, it was a miracle. It would have been far fewer students if we didn’t identify every single legal, allowable loophole for our students. But I weep for the students who fell through the cracks, both from my institution and from others statewide.

So what are these state admission criteria that are so problematic?

(Sorry, I’ll keep this as simple as possible but this might be confusing.)

All new freshmen graduating from Louisiana high schools must:

  • Graduate from high school with 19 units from the Regents’ Core 4 curriculum
  • Have a 2.0 overall GPA
  • Not need any developmental coursework in math or English
    • For most Louisiana high school graduates, this translates to getting an 18 ACT English and 19 ACT math

There are also three additional levels of admission criteria depending on the institution.

The additional minimum standards for each university tier are:

  • Flagship (LSU): 3.0 Regents’ core GPA OR 25 ACT composite
  • Statewide (ULL, LaTech and UNO): 2.5 Regents’ core GPA OR 23 ACT composite
  • Regional (the other 10 four-year universities): 2.0 Regents’ core GPA OR 20 ACT composite

The other piece is that effective at the statewide schools in fall 2012, and the regional universities in fall 2014, four year universities are no longer allowed to offer developmental courses. This is in the GRAD Act statute. It is not just policy that can be changed by the Board of Regents. It is a law that must be changed by our legislature.

Remember the enrollment drops at UNO? And several other universities reporting enrollment drops this past fall? Only one regional institution—LSUA—experienced a marked increase in freshman enrollment. It benefits from its location and demographics, enrolling the lowest percentage of African American students of all the four-year regional universities.

Bingo. State law. Jindal’s fault (while the leges bear some blame, they didn’t run a university system and wouldn’t be expected to know the impact like Jindal did). Not ours. But it looks like our fault. And it looks on the surface like, dang!, we really do have too many colleges in this state, and they should close, merge or privatize. Not a good year for that to happen, no? Was this… PLANNED?

There is another really huge problem with the published admission criteria. Academics and admissions folks should be able to see it immediately. I know I saw it as soon as I saw them announced in the Advocate back in April 2010. But the public, including students and parents? Not so much. Because they look very reasonable… but they aren’t, not by a long shot.

I’ll give you a hint. It has to do with the differences among the three admission tiers and the relationship between high school GPA and ACT scores. As well as the well-documented bias inherent to standardized college achievement tests, including the ACT.

I invite you to ponder this in the comments.

In my next post, I’ll delve into the projected and actual impact of the state admission criteria, look at the data that I have available to me as an admissions professional—some publicly accessible, some not—and how they prove without a doubt that Jindal didn’t just mean to cut our funding through cutting appropriations, he also meant for some of us to enroll fewer students to begin with. We won’t all be able to raise the difference in tuition even if we wanted to. Plus I will show that rather than shrinking as many of our institutions have been doing since Jindal took office, we should be enrolling more students, not fewer. This is because Louisiana is doing one important thing right—graduating many more students with the state college prep Core 4 curriculum.

And then to finish, in the third of this series I’ll talk about John White’s Spinning Wheel of ACT Scores and the RSD Miracle!—and how that provides cover for Jindal and his hand-picked boards to dismantle Louisiana’s education system piece by piece and student by student. And how the biggest losers are African American students in poverty, particularly in Orleans Parish.

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One thought on “Bobby Jindal’s Anti-Tax Cult and John White’s “Reformers”: Working Together to Keep More Kids Out of State Universities (Part 1 of 3)

  1. Pingback: Louisiana Higher Ed Confessions | deutsch29

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