In its December 2013 report on state support for higher education in the previous fiscal year, the American Association of Colleges and Universities highlighted the singular decline of state support in Bobby Jindal’s Louisiana, where the 17.6% decline in state funding was very close to double the second highest decline among the states, an 8.9% decline in West Virginia.
To put those numbers in further perspective, in the 2012-2013 fiscal year, only seven of the 50 states failed to increase their spending on higher education. This general pattern of increased allocations reflected the states’ attempts to restore some of the funding lost in the unprecedented cuts that occurred during and immediately following the Great Recession. The increases in funding were, however, fairly modest in comparison to the cuts, averaging about 2.9%.
Over the last seven years, the Jindal administration has cut almost $700 million in funding for higher education in Louisiana. At the same time, the state has permitted tuition increases covering only about two-thirds of that lost funding.
In his new budget, Jindal is calling for a $142 million increase in state spending on higher education, but $88 million of that total is simply permitted tuition increases that, unlike in previous years, will not be offset by even larger cuts in state support.
According to the Times-Picayune, the state’s largest newspaper: “The lion’s share of Jindal’s boost to higher education, about $88 million, would come from student tuition increases. But unlike recent years, the governor will not propose using that extra tuition cash to offset other higher education budget cuts. Instead, the universities and colleges would get to keep the added tuition revenue on top of the state funding they already receive.”
So, over the last eight years, about $550 million in higher education costs have been shifted from the state to the students attending state institutions.
Predictably, the governor’s office has described the study as “flawed,” asserting that it failed to take into account “all” of the state’s allocations to higher education. This assertion would seem to suggest that Louisiana is somehow funneling money to higher education in some singular way that does not allow it to be compared fairly to other states.
In another article in the Times-Picayune, Jindal spokesperson Kyle Plotkin offered this contradiction of the administration’s other assertions, wrapped inside a non-sequitur: “’When looking at total means of finance, spending for higher education has gone down by 4.6 percent, but at the same time, student outcomes are on the rise.”