LSU administration touts academic success, despite string of problems

Massive fundraising effort could serve as court of public opinion
Updated: Mar. 20, 2019 at 6:48 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - When Louisiana State University changed its admissions policy before the fall 2018 semester, some accused the school of sacrificing academic rigor for higher enrollment numbers and increased revenue.

But during the Board of Supervisors meeting on Wednesday, Mar. 20, LSU President F. King Alexander offered new evidence that suggests the lower admissions standards have not impacted academic performance.

“This diverse class of students, they’re succeeding in ways a lot of people said they couldn’t,” Alexander said. “That is truly the effort of the main campus to really show a lot of people this is the way the country is growing.”

Alexander says the class of 2022, now the largest and most diverse in the school’s history, took more classes and made better grades than their upperclassmen peers did during their respective first years, even though the older students were admitted to the university by more rigorous standards.

“That’s remarkable and that is a real tribute to the work our students, staff, and faculty have done," Alexander said. “That level of success is truly a promising sign.”

Perhaps encouraged by those results, the board adopted a change to the LSU Baton Rouge scholarship formula that would make some scholarships more widely available and lucrative. LSU administrators estimate each eligible freshman in 2020 stands to receive around $500 more in scholarships because of the change. The total investment is around $31 million, LSU spokesman, Ernie Ballard, confirmed Wednesday.

Alexander also predicted that the May 2018 graduating class will be the largest in school history.

Despite the apparent academic success, LSU has not evaded criticism in 2019. Former Board of Regents chair Richard Lipsey called for Alexander and Athletic Director Joe Alleva to be removed earlier this week, primarily over repeated hazing issues and the suspension of basketball coach Will Wade.

“I’m not prepared to go there,” Governor John Bel Edwards said on his radio show Wednesday in response to a question about the idea of firing Alleva and Alexander.

LSU is expected to kick off its largest-ever fundraising effort next Friday, Mar. 29. They’re asking for around $1.2 billion that would go toward all of LSU’s campuses across the state.

“We’re in a very good situation as we launch this campaign publicly,” LSU Foundation President Bryan Benchoff said. “It’s not just the launch of this campaign, it’s a launch of a new era for LSU fundraising, collaboration, and advancement efforts. This will set the stage for years to come.”

It’s only the third time LSU has engaged in a capital campaign in school history. The amount of money the school raises could be a sort of measuring stick for university leadership that helps determine exactly how the LSU community feels about the direction the school is headed in.

*NOTE: This story was updated, March 21, to reflect that LSU did not change its admissions standards, but adjusted its admissions policy so that applicants who did not meet some of the minimum admissions standards would still be considered for enrollment.

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