Friday, March 01, 2013

Higher Education in Louisiana

According to U.S. census data,  just 21.1% of adults over the age of 25 in this state have acquired a college education, the 5th lowest rate in the nation. Louisiana's flagship university, LSU, is sinking under the leadership of Governor Bobby Jindal. U.S. News and Word Report ranks the school 134th, down 10 points from just last year. Since Jindal first term in 2008, the state budget to LSU has been cut by more than $625 million, or 44%. Faculty salaries have been frozen for four years, and tuition has increased from $5000 for residents in 2008 to the current rate of $19,500, and it's expected to rise dramatically next year. My daughter, a high school senior with high grades and test scores, could attend LSU for free, but she is wisely looking at other schools, most of them out of state. Louisiana is poor, and more than 40% of our students receive need based Pell Grants. But these have been cut dramatically over the past decade. I've seen it first hand with declining student numbers at Xavier. Congress cut summer Pell Grants as well as the number of eligible semesters. This hit the South and minorities especially hard. When I went to school, Pell Grants covered nearly all of the costs associated with my education at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. That's sadly not the case anymore. The American Dream, where even the poorest could make a better financial life for themselves through education, is now statistically a myth.