Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Destroying Louisiana’s Public Universities

Gov. Jindal would rather see the state's higher education system further decimated than consider a tax

I know there must be some pro-Jindal Republicans in Louisiana somewhere, but I haven’t yet met one in the three years I’ve been back. When I ask them why they turned on him, every single one says a variation of, “Because he’s sacrificing the state for his national political ambitions.” Most of them add, “He’s destroyed LSU.”

Comes news that the Jindal Administration is forecasting cutting state funding for its public colleges and universities by $200 to $300 million. From the Times-Picayune:

Gov. Bobby Jindal‘s administration said Louisiana’s colleges and universities should be prepared to sustain anywhere from $200 million to $300 million in cuts during the 2015-2016 school year.

So what, exactly, does that mean?

Consider: LSU’s public operating budget — including money collected from tuition, the federal government and dedicated funding streams — is $975 million. (And when we talk about LSU, we are referring to ALL of LSU — including the medical school, law school, Alexandria campus, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, etc.)

Meaning, the cut being discussed amounts to what’s roughly one-third of LSU’s total public operating budget.

Louisiana has cut almost $700 million from public higher education since 2008. But — and you knew this was coming:

There are many cuts that have to be made to balance the budget, and higher education is one of the only places where legislators can easily slash funding. Jindal has already indicated that he won’t let any sort of tax increase go into place, so most avenues for raising revenue are already blocked.

Well, he can’t be the Republican governor who raised taxes, now can he? Not if he wants a national political career. Sorry, LSU.

To be fair, the state’s budget shortfall comes in part because of the collapse in oil prices (but not entirely; the state faced a billion-dollar budget shortfall before the oil price fall). Jindal can’t help that. But why not slap a temporary gas tax onto the pump here to cushion the blow to higher education, and the rest of the state budget? We are all saving plenty every time we fill up. It wouldn’t kill us to pay, I dunno, twenty cents extra per gallon for the sake of higher ed.

Here’s why, in part: because presidential candidate Jindal would have to explain to GOP primary voters why he oversaw a tax increase.

It’s early yet in the budget process, so it might not be as bad as all that in the end. But somebody is going to end up hurting, and hurting real bad (for example, as the Picayune reports, health care funding is going to fall off a cliff). We haven’t seen gas prices this cheap in decades. The state’s motorists can afford to pay a little more at the pump for the sake of saving our universities, which, if nothing else, means jobs. I was kind of hoping one or more of my kids would go to LSU. At this rate, I don’t know how much LSU will be left for them to go to.

(Nota bene: Please don’t blame the LSU Athletics Department, which is self-funding.)




Want to join the conversation?

Subscribe for as little as $5/mo to start commenting on Rod’s blog.

Join Now