While most people are watching the Louisiana House Education Committee for all the big news items–and today will be a really big news day since it will be addressing the Common Core controversy–yesterday was a pretty big day for the folks in my profession, and I argue also for Louisiana public higher education in general. Two bills dealing with the state university admission criteria advanced out of committee, which means that a total of four related bills will have advanced out of their respective committees. One is no longer an admissions bill (SB155) since the admissions authority amendment was stripped from the bill on the Senate floor, but three are still very much alive.
If I were a gambling person I would bet my money on HB333 just because it has the broadest implications for all our institutions, and thus affects most of the constituents our legislators represent. It’s also the one I most hope will become law because it is the one that makes the most sense based on all my years of research. While I am paid to work exclusively toward the best interests of my institution in my day job, here and in my increasingly active Twitter feed I advocate for all public education the best I can.
And this year, depending on how HB1 (the state budget) fares as it continues through the process–and right now it’s not looking too good beyond an extremely short term fix–Louisiana’s higher education’s ability to enroll and educate rather than turn away mass numbers of students is going to be really critical to our survival.
There is evidence that the Plan B that I have been warning about is what is going to take place to at least some extent. Increased enrollment+tuition authority=survival. This is the term that LSU President F. King Alexander used in an interview Monday when discussing the tuition authority piece. Survival.
Now, what is being proposed on the admissions side may not significantly impact the flagship–it certainly won’t hurt it though–but it WILL help save other LSU institutions, particularly LSUA and LSUS. Even though LSUA was the only regional university that grew its freshman enrollment last year, I know from talking to fellow recruiters back at the #NoFundsNoFuture rally that they turned away a boatload of applicants to get to that enrollment growth.
The University of Louisiana System–which includes the vast majority of “regional” universities, including one of the three four-year HBCUs, and one urban statewide institution that also has been hugely affected by the GRAD Act admissions criteria (UNO)–probably has the most skin in this game just by the amount of exposure across multiple institutions.
But since 86% of the drop in new freshman enrollment last year was African American, and the three HBCUs absorbed 2/3 of that hit, the Southern University System, particularly SUBR and SUNO, will not survive if the admission criteria are not changed to reflect the populations its two four-year institutions serve. This was WITH the (temporary) Developmental Education Pilot program which provided some relief, but not nearly enough because even those standards are too high for the populations our state serves. When over 1/3 of your new freshman enrollment is based on a temporary program, and enrollment is still dropping because you are still sending hundreds if not thousands of students away, there is something very, very wrong.
And I believe this is true even if higher ed is really made “whole” this year (meaning that we are spared the axe, not that we will be restored to what we were before Jindal took office) or not. The data show that there are not enough admissible students in the state or even beyond to support these institutions. Notice I said admissible. There are enough students for all of us, from community college to flagship because we are successfully graduating more students, and more students with the core curriculum, every year. Plus we have a huge adult population who have never attended college at all or who have never completed degrees or credentials. But our regional universities and especially our HBCUs are sending what are almost exclusively African American students away in what I believe is a completely hidden and ignored civil rights travesty going on under our noses.
Rarely have I heard this mentioned in testimony so far. I have heard people talk about the average ACT score of African American students and students in the New Orleans area, and talk somewhat around this issue, but hardly anyone has said specifically what the actual impact on African American enrollment has been, beyond the Southern University people who testified yesterday.
This is really important, because one of the objections has been, “this is why we have community colleges, and why we have invested so much in our community college system.”
Well, first, when only I think 13% is being invested in our community college system, that’s not investing greatly.
But we are also saying that African American students have to start in community college since fewer than 15% of our African American high school graduates last year met the published admission criteria.
This is wrong.
And that is perhaps the biggest reason why I have been fighting this battle for five years. Not very long ago, a high ranking administrator asked me why this was an important battle to fight.
I said because it is the right thing to do.
Whether or not our collective institutional survival is riding on this. Our state’s future is at stake here. It is the right thing to do.
LABI and CABL can oppose one or another of these admissions related bills all they want. They like increasing tuition, but not expanding admissions. Guess they don’t want their workforce to be too educated. Particularly the African American workforce.
Fortunately, yesterday in testimony the Louisiana Board of Regents came out in support of HB333, and they also testified again that they are working with higher ed leaders to address the admissions criteria. So friends in the admissions community, and other friends of higher education, please stay tuned.