Don’t Celebrate Yet

Well, I don’t know if everyone in Louisiana higher education was keeping track of the Legislative Telethon last Thursday, but I was.

I also was paying attention the day before when bills relating to higher education tuition setting authority and state admission requirements continued to move. So the Plan B that I discussed in my last blog post is still very much alive.

Also, the Regents stated in Wednesday evening testimony (yes, evening, as in almost 8 PM) that they are negotiating new requirements with system heads on new admissions criteria, so that’s come out now in the public record. The Regents staffer also reminded legislators–who had earlier accused Regents of not doing its job so that admissions bills don’t have to be filed–that, hello, GRAD Act prohibits universities from offering developmental education courses, so yes legislators, you passed it in 2010 and if you want a change, you’ll have to pass it again this year. OK, so maybe she didn’t say it quite that way.

But it does beg the question… did the legislature have any clue what they were passing in 2010 with GRAD Act? (I know, stupid question.) They obviously didn’t know it contributed several nails to the Higher Ed Coffin that they are trying to keep out of the ground this year, and that the “zero developmental education” line in GRAD Act was one of the linchpins.

Not that I expect them to know the details on what it takes to get into university in Louisiana, but if I hear one more person ask, “What’s the minimum score to get into a four-year university?” and they get answered, “20” (or 18, or any other single composite number) I will scream. ESPECIALLY when the answer comes from someone who should know the real answer like the lady from Regents.

High school counselors and even most graduating high school seniors know the real answer because we quiz them and their students. 18 English and 19 math. The ACT composite can help determine where you can go, but not if you can go in the vast majority of cases. And I guarantee you that Bobby Jindal knows that too which is why he backed legislation to merge regional with statewide universities two years in a row after GRAD Act passed, because regional enrollment, especially of African American students, was about to tank big time.

Legislators, if you don’t want your constituents to keep bothering you because their kids can’t get into a state university, you helped Bobby Jindal break it, and you’ve got to fix it.

HB177, one of several bills addressing the state admission criteria this year, unanimously moved out of committee. SB155 with an amendment giving system boards admission criteria authority also moved to its third and final reading in the Senate.

But Thursday was all about Plan A. The Legislative Telethon to Save Higher Education!

According to Joel Robideaux (R-If UL Lafayette Shuts Down They’re Sending Both Coach Hud AND the Cajun John Wayne After Me And It Won’t Be to Make Me City-Parish President), chair of House Ways and Means, Thursday risked being like the end of a Quentin Tarentino movie (I wonder which one) and said, “Higher education is looking for a stay of execution.”

And Rep. Jim Fannin (R-If ULM, LaTech and Grambling Shut Down Ace the Warhawk Will Pluck My Eyes Out While I Get Maimed by Grambling’s Tiger and Tech XX Pees on My Remains) said this about the $664 million raised pledged passed Thursday: “This give us what we need for higher education and part of what we need for health care… We’ve gotten to second base; now we’ll just need a couple of singles in the Senate to bring us home.” He along with several other legislators also said that they would come back to override a Jindal veto–well, we’ll see about that.

And out of the five prepared statements from higher education leaders, three said they were “grateful.” Gee, thanks for not killing us today. Greatly appreciated.

Of course, just like Jindal claimed his executive budget would Save Higher Education! but would really Close Campuses and Send Students Home to MOOC Their Education!–we have to look at the House’s claims a bit closer.

Especially because Jindal (R-Snowball’s Chance in Hell I’ll Be President Except in My Wildest Delusions) said this about Thursday’s frenzy:

“We commend the House on their hard work today. This is one more step in the process towards passing a balanced budget that helps protect higher education and healthcare without raising taxes.”

And then said this on Friday:

“We are still opposed to raising taxes. Nothing’s changed there.”

So whenever Jindal chimes in on something, expect doublespeak. If he claims success it’s probably not going to be a real success for higher education. He still wields the great and mighty Veto Pen.

Because first, $668 million isn’t enough.

Second, a lot of people don’t like it. Like the fine businessfolk at LABI, who apparently don’t want “educated” to go along with that workforce.

Third, what about health care?

Fourth, as CB Forgotston and Treasurer John Kennedy point out (oh, and Moody’s), our real problem is structural. The tax adjustments, increases, refund caps, whatever you want to call what happened Thursday does not address how we got here in the first place.

Neither of those folks will agree with me on what will fix it, but a lot of people do. Bringing back the Stelly Plan. I know it’s not going to happen, but it would fix the problem. That’s because it did fix the problem.

Since the problem is structural, and can’t be fixed just with one-time tax increases (just like it wasn’t fixed by Jindal’s one-time raids of state funds) this means that even if Plan A works, we will be back again next year if not sooner. Remember mid-year budget cuts? The ones we have almost every year? Well, if Plan A doesn’t generate the expected revenue (a definite possibility), then expect one. Potentially a big one.

In addition, Plan A might not survive either the Senate or Jindal. Plan B is still very much in play, and has the support of the House and Senate. And since it isn’t a tax increase as defined by either Grover Norquist or the Louisiana Family Forum, it shouldn’t be vetoed by Jindal.

Expect that the legislature will give higher education tuition authority.

And expect that the legislature will allow us to change the admission criteria by amending or nullifying the “no developmental education” line in GRAD Act. There are four bills out there this year that propose to do that. At least one of them will stick. I still support this because it needs to happen, but not as part of Plan B.

CB Forgotston says that taxpayers should hold on to their wallets.

I’m saying that students need to hold on to their wallets.

That’s if they want someplace to go to go to school next fall.

We’re not out of the woods yet, kids.



2 thoughts on “Don’t Celebrate Yet

  1. Yankee, I thought the restriction on tuition authority was constitutional, and that the legislature can at best get an amendment on the next ballot to change that. Is that not correct? Which one of them it is, statutory or constitutional, makes a huge difference, obviously to even me, to how it all might play out over the next year or two because of the timing of implementing the ability of LSU to raise tuition as it pleases. Everything you’ve written suggests LSU is the only one that would benefit because the others are already at their maximum tuition without pricing them out of the market, although the ability to price degrees differentially might help marginally. Please clarify and comment. PS. I think your university should let you go, and then the Board of Regents should promptly hire you into an executive position to advise them on how to proceed.


    • Huey, you are partially right. The overall tuition authority is constitutional and SB155 would put that forward to voters if passed. GRAD Act allows for up to 10% automatic for institutions who pass GRAD Act to bring them up to SREB averages (and may are close to that if not completely there) and that is statutory. Both have been discussed this session. So what I’m calling Plan B would not necessarily take effect July 1 so higher ed has to get something between then and when a constitutional amendment is put before the voters if SB155 is passed. So it’s not a guarantee by any means. But it is what legislators (specifically Sen. Adley) are saying is the way that higher ed is going to survive if adequate funding isn’t found this legislative session.

      I’m too much of a big mouth to last long in Baton Rouge in any capacity but thanks.


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