LSU presidential choice used to dealing with politics

LSU presidential choice used to dealing with politics

Louisiana's practice of requiring a two-thirds vote by the Legislature before raising tuition is “quite interesting,” says F. King Alexander, the California State University Long Beach president who hopes to lead LSU.

In California, the Legislature needs the same margin to pass any budget, which Alexander says basically guaranteed that his university wouldn't have a working budget at the beginning of each of the last four fiscal years. Alexander says Louisiana higher ed leaders are dealing with the uncertainty of having much of their state funding based on contingencies that may not materialize.

“We've always had that in California,” says Alexander, after visiting LSU today and meeting with officials for the first time since being named the lone finalist to be president of the LSU System and Baton Rouge campus on Friday. “We've had as many as seven budgetary scenarios going into one year.”

He says CSULB went from 44% of its budget being funded by the state to 23%, adding he looks forward to meeting with Louisiana legislators and Gov. Bobby Jindal—who, Alexander notes, was at Oxford University two years after he attended.

“I think it's the job of a [university] president to educate legislative leaders,” he says, “to understand the impact of various policies. … You need to work one-on-one with these individuals.”

As LSU president, Alexander says, he would work closely with faculty to assuage their concerns about his qualifications and the secretive hiring process that led to his selection as the lone finalist by the LSU Board of Supervisors, who will consider hiring him at a special meeting Wednesday. Alexander says it is a “moral obligation” to raise college graduation rates.

CSULB's six-year graduation rate is about 56.6%, he says, while the “predicted graduation rate,” based on the student population it serves, is about 42%. He says the university's graduation rate improvements prompted an invitation to the White House to talk about how their success might be duplicated at other schools.

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