State’s economy requires reduction of schools and football programs
If his goal was to get the proletariat’s attention, Gov. John Bel Edwards did so.
In a televised speech last week, Edwards proffered that Louisiana college football could be affected this fall if Louisiana’s estimated $943 million budget shortfall this year, and $2 billion next year, aren’t fixed.
While detractors laughed off the idea of not having LSU football this year, many of the state’s other college football programs could, and should, be impacted.
The legislature is a week into a three-week special session to find a solution to the economic boondoggle. Everything from the TOPS scholarship program, to hospital and school funding, to college football were offered for cuts, while a 1-cent sales tax increase was recommended to close the budget gaps.
While politicians want to please as many as possible, tough, unpopular decisions will have to be made for the benefit of the greater good of our state.
One of the many responsibilities legislators have is to reduce unnecessary and redundant programs. Louisiana currently has 14 publicly funded four-year universities and 15 two-year colleges. Ten of the four-year schools have football programs, whose costly expenses often don’t cover their athletic departments’ costs. Mergers and closures of some schools and football programs must be considered as part of Louisiana’s budget fix.
Trying to be as objective as possible and considering numerous factors including economic, geographic, and environmental concerns, population and historical/cultural factors, it seems the state should look at closing as many as five of its four-year schools and six of its two-year schools.
Because of their current enrollment and/or location as one of the state’s major economic and population centers, LSU, UL – Lafayette, Southeastern La., La. Tech, Northwestern, UL – Monroe and UNO are safe. However, each should strive to increase and retain a minimum enrollment of 12,500 students moving forward.
Because of their unique significance in our state, Southern and Grambling must survive. Increased enrollment at both campuses must be improved, however.
With enrollments of fewer than 5,000 students, LSU – Shreveport, LSU – Alexandria, and Southern – New Orleans should be closed. In addition, Nicholls and McNeese should also be reviewed for possible closure with their unique fields and programs shifted to LSU, UL – Lafayette, Southeastern La., and/or UNO.
For similar reasoning in regard to enrollment and/or location, two-year schools Delgado, Baton Rouge, Bossier Parish, South Louisiana, South Central Louisiana, Louisiana Delta and Northshore should remain open. Central Louisiana in Alexandria and SOWELA in Lake Charles should remain open if LSU – Alexandria or McNeese, close in their respective towns.
Because of geographic redundancy, Northwest Louisiana and Southern – Shreveport can merge with Bossier Parish, LSU – Eunice with South Louisiana, Nunez with Delgado, Fletcher with South Central Louisiana, and River Parishes with Baton Rouge.
With these cuts in mind, the state should additionally merge the state’s three competing four-year systems – LSU, UL and Southern – into one, further eliminating redundancy and associated costs.
If all possible cuts were made, the state would retain nine of its 14 four-year schools and eight of its 10 college football programs. Those schools would benefit from increased enrollment and tuition funding for academic and athletic programming.
With oil prices depressed and little relief expected soon, the state’s economy is, and could be, in recession for the foreseeable future. The state must find new revenue streams, but must also ensure it makes smart, appropriate spending decisions going forward. Consolidation is needed in the state’s higher education. While proprietorship and sense of loss will cause raw emotion and potentially knock-down-drag-out fights, if done right, the state could see improvements in the governance and funding of our colleges and universities. That, in turn, may lead to bigger and better opportunities for the state’s schools, athletic programs and student athletes.
Football & Finances
Louisiana has 14 publicly funded four-year universities and 15 two-year colleges. Ten of the four-year schools have football programs.
Louisiana four-year universities 2015-16 enrollment figures
|2||UL – Lafayette||17,508||Yes|
|6||UL – Monroe||8,854||Yes|
|12||LSU – Shreveport||4,383||No|
|13||LSU – Alexandria||3,104||No|
Louisiana two-year/technical college 2014-15 enrollment figures
|5||S. Central La.||4,564||Yes|
|10||Southern – Shreveport||2,936||Yes|
|11||LSU – Eunice||2,738||Yes|
Source: Louisiana Board of Regents via The Advocate