BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The candidates in the Louisiana governor's race have all stated higher education is one of their top priorities. The head of the largest university in the state is proposing a plan he believes will be crucial to the survival of public colleges and universities.
Louisiana State University is riding high in terms of academic success and enrollment.
"We are graduating more students faster than ever before," said LSU President F. King Alexander, PhD.
Adding 900 new students to its roster from last year, Alexander said the university has bounced back in the face of adversity. Most recently, LSU avoided looming state budget cuts that would have brought the university to its knees.
"I think what the budget battle showed last year is that the bleeding has to stop, and higher education was indeed held hostage last legislative session," Alexander said.
Still, Alexander said that gradual cuts to higher education and a recession have made for an unhealthy financial situation resulting in an estimated 200 cuts to its faculty.
"We are now at a breaking point. We really have crested," Alexander said.
In the United States, LSU ranks 6th lowest in tuition, 18th in best starting salaries, and boasts a 26th best graduation rate. However, it ranks 46th in spending per student. Dr. Alexander said that darkens the path for LSU to succeed.
"This is where it hurts us, because when I get in front of these parents and students I don't want to say come to our university we will spend less on your child than any other university in the country," Alexander said.
Dr. Alexander is proposing four concepts to Louisiana's next governor that he believes will help LSU get on more solid ground.
- Provide a stable and predictable funding source.
- Constructing a reinvestment mechanism tied to Louisiana's workforce preparation.
- Creating a research matching program to get a return on its investment.
- Facilities investment plan to address deferred maintenance.
He fears if a solid plan is not put into motion soon, Louisiana could lose its public higher education system.
"Without additional and stable funding mechanisms from the state or without raising tuition, we have gone about as far as we can," Alexander said.
Dr. Alexander said all four gubernatorial candidates have been receptive to his idea.