Louisiana’s Plan for Affordable Higher Education – Bama by Distance?

Unnoticed to everyone than perhaps others in Louisiana higher education, every day I see and hear advertisements that offer proof that our state’s historic commitment to affordable, public higher education is crumbling around the edges.

A bus shrink wrapped with ads for Southern New Hampshire University’s online programs.

Radio ads for Arizona State’s and University of Alabama’s online programs. The Alabama one, Bama by Distance, proudly invites Louisiana students to Rise with the Tide. Geaux Tide?

Ads for Tulane University’s School of Continuing Studies, which touts how affordable their tuition is.

These are not proprietary, for-profit schools like University of Phoenix or Strayer. These are all non-profit universities which are taking advantage of the fact that more Louisiana students are no longer able to attend our own public universities. The out of state schools wouldn’t run ads here if they weren’t enrolling students from here.

I have talked here a lot about the admission requirements which do more to keep students out of college than in college.

I have not talked about the impact on adult students.

There are two strikes against adult students. Unless a student is a “reentry” student (meaning that at one point in the past they attended your institution), the current state admission standards make it very difficult if not impossible to go directly to a state four-year university unless it is as a transfer student from a community college.

There are many adults who want two-year degrees or certificates.

But there are also many adults who want four-year university degrees and beyond.

But let’s say that adults can get in.

Let’s look at what it costs per credit hour to take one three credit hour class at Tulane’s School of Continuing Studies versus the University of New Orleans.

Tulane: $369

UNO: $377

Oh, and Bama by Distance is $333 and SNHU is $320. Arizona State is a bit higher, ranging between $480 and $543 per credit hour.

Prior to Katrina, UNO was among the top three Big Schools that Aren’t LSU partly on the strength of its Metropolitan College, which served a largely adult, non-traditional population. This was to the chagrin of the former president of my former institution which was also among the Big Schools, and before Katrina enrolled just a hair fewer students than UNO. He used to complain (wrongly) that these weren’t “real” numbers because these students were just part-time.

But prior to Katrina there was a huge need that was being met in New Orleans by UNO and also by SUNO, which traditionally enrolls(or enrolled?) a significant adult first time freshman population.

But now it costs about the same to go part-time to Tulane as it does UNO. And of course, UNO cut its Metropolitan College in 2009.

Hmm, where you going to go then? UNO which is struggling to survive while the state has it in a chokehold? Or Tulane? Or Bama by Distance for that matter?

And that was before this legislative session. For those who weren’t watching, yesterday the inventory tax repeal stalled because, among other things, the leges found that it won’t free up any additional revenue after all. It is looking more like the higher ed doomsday scenario, or something close to it, may actually happen.

If that is what is going to happen, look for universities to be given the autonomy to raise tuition beyond the current legislative cap, and also possibly for them to be able to enroll more students. All this is on the table this legislative session.

Although I am obviously a champion for adjusting the admission requirements, I am not advocating that this be simply a way to open the door for more students to fund our universities because the state funds aren’t there.

Because a lot of the students who no longer have access to an AFFORDABLE university education in our state aren’t going to be helped a great deal by adjusting the admission criteria if our tuitions go through the roof in the process.

Let me show you what is happening RIGHT NOW in Ohio. Our performance-based funding formula (part of GRAD Act) is modeled on Ohio’s.

Their leges are now talking about capping tuition because even Ohio’s conservative governor is saying that preserving “college affordability is a priority.” In other words–they attempted to fund higher education on the backs of students and it’s not working.

Miami University of Ohio is the most expensive public institution in the country. It’s also branded itself as a Public Ivy, but do we want a Public Ivy LSU that only affluent folks can go to?

Gov. Jindal, I’m not asking you that question because your actions show that it is a resounding Yes.

And it appears we are about to not just walk but sprint down that road.

And in Grover Norquist’s world, student tuition isn’t a tax.

But in ours, yes, sorry, it is.


One thought on “Louisiana’s Plan for Affordable Higher Education – Bama by Distance?

  1. Universities also need to somehow reclaim and re-energize the honest truth that there is indeed value in a “traditional” college experience.

    The online programs, both non and for-profit, consistently follow the results-based “hole vs. drillbit” marketing model. If we are to believe the barrage of heartwarming ads, it certainly seems that – after an undetermined amount of time and some sort of implied academic activity – a life changing diploma is bestowed upon the distance learner.

    However, as with any other trendy, bubble-based workflow, we can probably expect the eventual scrutiny and rejection of “online” degrees – based on future studies that cite a lack of interpersonal skills, organizational skills, personal motivation, “experiential diversity” and whatnot among such graduates.

    Until then, traditional institutions will generally flail about non remembering what it is they actually do and why people for generations wanted to go there.

    Liked by 1 person

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