Bobby Jindal Has Proposed the Biggest Higher Education Cuts in History

May 12th 2015

Laura Donovan

In response to a $1.6 billion funding shortfall, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has proposed cuts to the state's colleges that school officials estimate could total $600 million. Decreased oil revenue, on which the state of Louisiana depends heavily, has been cited as a major driver of Louisiana's deficit.

The $600 million figure is concerning to many in academia. The $600 million in cuts would eliminate nearly 85 percent of Louisiana's higher education funding, "the biggest legislative downsizing ever faced by higher education in the U.S.," the Atlantic explained. It could potentially force some Louisiana campuses to completely close-up shop. For reference, Jindal's proposed cuts are double the higher education cut proposed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) earlier this year. Those cuts prompted many Wisconsin universities to hike out-of-state tuition to make up for the cost. Jindal, like Walker, is expected to run for president.

Jindal's proposed cuts aren't a shock considering his background in managing Louisiana education. Support for public higher education has declined more than $5,000 per student since he entered office seven years ago, the highest per-student reduction in the country. As ATTN: noted in February, the last time the state invested this little money into higher education was in the 1950s.

Earlier this year, Jindal commented about the value of public education at a American Principles Project’s conference.

“Why is it important to fund and support public education?” Jindal said. “Because if we want to keep the republic we have, our republic can only be as good as our citizens. So we need an educated population with critical thinking skills. We need to train citizens to be responsible, functioning adults. I always hear from parents, from the Chamber of Commerce, from business groups that we’ve got to fund education.”

F. King Alexander, the president of the Louisiana State University system, told the Atlantic that Louisiana State University (LSU) and several schools within the state might have to file for bankruptcy through financial exigency thanks to the plan. Four-year universities aren't the only institutions at stake: Louisiana's 14 community colleges and technical schools could be jeopardized because of the cuts as well. Through financial exigency, the school system can let go or furlough tenured instructors, potentially threatening the jobs of many professors and educators. Because demand for LSU enrollment has spiked over the past few years, Alexander says it's a crucial time to invest in higher education. 

"The sheer numbers that we're looking at — they're pretty frightening," Alexander told the publication.

Daniel Hurley, who oversees government relations at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, told the Atlantic that Jindal's plan represents "gubernatorial malpractice of the highest order," adding that it's particularly troubling to see "the governor's willingness to sacrifice the entire public higher-education system in the state and everything that it represents."

Because of the situation at hand, Hurley says it's impossible for Louisiana state schools to prepare for the fall semester. 

"No entity, public or private, can plan in any rational way with this huge unknown out there," Hurley told the publication. "It is sort of unfathomable that a system could receive that big of a cut. That would dwarf anything that has ever happened at the state level in this country."

In February, Stephanie Grey, a communications professor at Louisiana State University, told ThinkProgress that the state is suffering thanks to Jindal's approach to higher education. 

“This is a tipping point or ‘point of no return’ event,” Grey said. “It’s a dividing line between a higher education that Louisiana can benefit from and take pride in and a sinking ship for which accreditation will be an issue. We need leadership from the governor, but he is missing in action as he has been for several years.”

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