In a previous post, I highlighted the consistent reductions in the state support to public higher education in Louisiana during Bobby Jindal’s terms as governor.
More specifically, the governor recently announced what he has declared is a large increase in state support for higher education, but it turns out that more than half of the funding increase will be in the form of tuition increases that, in contrast with the practice in previous years, will not be offset by larger decreases in state subsidy. So, from Jindal’s perspective, this increased tuition being paid by the students themselves is an increase in state support.
Writing for the Associated Press, Melinda Deslatte now reports that the state has been relying on “a patchwork of dollars from property sales, legal settlements, lease payments and other financing arrangements” to meet its commitments to higher education, and because those revenues have not materialized in a timely enough way, the state is now borrowing—taking a legally required loan—from other state funds to cover the shortfall.
The Jindal administration has, of course, tried to frame this “loan” as a commonplace procedure, even though it has never before needed to resort to it to fund higher education.
Advocates for public higher education and critics of the Jindal administration are viewing this revenue shortfall as the inevitable consequence of the governor’s neglect of, if not outright antipathy toward, the state’s public colleges and universities.
At a quick glance, Deslatte’s article may almost seem to support Jindal’s position over that of his critics. Although she notes, ”About $850 million in state funding was budgeted for higher education in the current fiscal year, and $340 million—or 40 percent—of that was slated to come from the patchwork funding streams,” she then adds, “The Jindal administration and lawmakers have used similar funding maneuvers for years, but this is the first time the bulk of the money was earmarked for higher education, instead of health care services.”
But putting all of this in a somewhat broader context does serve to clarify things. In another earlier post, I discussed Jindal’s suit against MoveOn.org because that organization’s billboards criticizing his rejection of the federally subsidized expansion of Medicaid parodied the state’s new campaign to promote tourism. So, if one considers all of these issues together, it is clear that funding—both in terms of total funding and identification of funding sources–reflects priorities and that healthcare and higher education have very plainly not been anything close to priorities for Jindal.