Higher education in Louisiana may be safe after all

Over the past couple of months, many reports have stated that higher education in Louisiana was in serious trouble. With Governor Bobby Jindal suggesting cuts to higher education as high as $600 million, Louisiana State University (LSU) went so far as to draw paperwork to file for academic bankruptcy just in case the state decided to go through with the decreases.

But a little good news emerged from the Louisiana Legislature this week as the House Appropriations Committee approved “a spending plan that favors higher education…”

The plan includes $615 million in new revenue that would save the state’s colleges and universities, including LSU, from having to layoff employees and cut programs and services due to the budget shortfall.

According to NOLA.com, the original plan had the House Appropriations Committee raising close to $1 billion. Because that plan didn’t go through, the House still had to make cuts. Fortunately for higher education, those reductions were redirected elsewhere.

Healthcare funding will “fall $180 million short” and the new University Medical Center in New Orleans is missing close to $90 million due to the lack of state revenue.

One one hand it’s great that the future of the state’s college students will not be compromised due to a budget shortfall but Louisiana’s most vulnerable may be in peril because of bad money decisions by the state’s leaders.

To keep current funding levels for higher education and healthcare, state lawmakers will need to raise revenue by over $1 billion. That’s either bad decision making or terrible leadership.

Partially filling the shortfall this year will only push their budgetary issues further down the road, which will likely place funding for higher education on the chopping block again in the future.

If Louisiana wants a strong and robust workforce, I hope they’ll find ways to ensure the health of higher education without slashing healthcare funding to keep it.

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