My Biggest Competitor

With all my focus as of late upon the minimum state university admission criteria, today I’d like to introduce you to my biggest competitor for students who our state deems non-university ready.

This is in part because the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities released its full report, Years of Cuts Threaten to Put College Out of Reach for More Students. But for months, we in Louisiana have been treated to graphics like these showing that when adjusted for inflation, we have cut per-student expenditures for higher education more than any other state:

And that we have raised tuition by over 60%–that’s with the cap of no more than 10% a year granted us by the Legislature in GRAD Act.

So we are facing a perfect storm of pricing our students out of the market this legislative session, particularly since we are likely going to give higher education tuition authority (which I think is a good idea–but NOT an excuse to deprive us of funding), cap TOPS awards where it isn’t linked to tuition and fee increases, and overall not fund higher education appropriately as we move toward a euphemistically-termed “student-funded model.”

Back in 2009-2010 I predicted that we would be pushing mass numbers of Louisiana students out of the higher education market. That the net effect of GRAD Act and Jindal’s cut-cut-cut policies (where a tuition dollar equals funding so state funds can be cut for each dollar of tuition increase) would be to drive students away.

And nowhere would it be more evident than in the students who our four-year universities could not directly admit in the first place.

I have talked about out of state competitors, and I’ve talked about online competitors. I don’t know if anyone is reading my blog in secret (kind of like I write it in secret) but I’ve noticed that several of the things I have discussed here have entered overall higher ed discourse this legislative session. I’ve heard people use catch terms and phrases that I’ve used here.

So in case any of those folks read this, let me tell you about my biggest competitor for the students whom I “refer” (deny admission). One I finally found out for sure yesterday really is my biggest competitor. I wasn’t surprised because often we recruiters are able to recognize the wolves at our door before we get the data to prove it.

My biggest competitor isn’t showy or flashy.

My biggest competitor did not invest greatly in billboards at a public university’s doorstep, or on shrink wrapped busses, or on tv, radio or internet advertising.

I don’t see my biggest competitor at college fairs. It doesn’t bring table banners, glossy brochures, cool giveaways and smiling recruiters when it comes calling.

My biggest competitor did not descend on our state as soon as we started raising tuition through the roof, nor when we imposed admission criteria that would do a better job of keeping kids out of college rather than in college. It was already here, waiting.

My biggest competitor needs no funding. Offers no scholarships or financial aid options.

But my biggest competitor is everywhere. My biggest competitor whispers in students’ ears 24-7. It often seems to live inside their homes and hearts.

My biggest competitor says that college isn’t an option. Takes full advantage when they get a letter saying, congratulations, you don’t qualify for admission right now but you can go to our partner community college program. Or when well-meaning family members say that college is too expensive or too difficult to get to or you can always go later after you get a job and make some money first.

My biggest competitor is ultimately patient. What it lacks in flash and message it makes up in patiently waiting and in always being there.

My biggest competitor is Nowhere.

Nowhere took over one-third of the students we euphemistically “referred” to a partner community college program. More than the students who actually went to said program. More than who went to other community colleges, out of state, in state privates, and certainly more than the handful who must have gotten admitted by exception at a four year public.

Yesterday I attended a ceremony our partner community college program had for its completers. Most of those kids had 3.0 and better GPAs. A few had 4.0s. These are students that our state said weren’t college ready.

They were the lucky ones.

They didn’t go Nowhere. They didn’t listen to Nowhere. They listened to us. My staff and I recruited those kids to that program just as hard as we recruited the kids who we were able to admit and were on our official head count.

Because even though I didn’t have the data yet, I knew who was waiting. Who would always be there.


This is where Bobby Jindal and his policies sent these mostly African American kids and students on the margins. The kids we used to be able to admit. And the kids who used to be able to afford college.


And that’s who took the largest proportion of those students.


This is what happens when you defund public higher education and place it on the backs of students. This is why you see certain institutions–the ones who serve the most African American students and students on the margins–declining in enrollment.

We are competing with Nowhere.

Now, I know how to compete with Nowhere. I’ve been doing it my whole career, especially the part of it working in Louisiana.

But only if you allow me to.

Don’t price us out of students’ reach. Start RE-funding public higher education.



2 thoughts on “My Biggest Competitor

  1. Pingback: New Proposed State University Admission Criteria–Regents, Do the Right Thing and Approve Them! | LA Higher Ed Confessions

  2. Pingback: Regents, Now that HB171 Passed, Don’t Be Afraid to Approve New Admission Criteria | LA Higher Ed Confessions

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