Louisiana’s higher education spending per student down more than any other state

There was a sigh of relief from leaders of Louisiana’s public colleges and universities in June when the Legislature passed a budget that held funding for higher education steady and fully-funded the popular TOPS program.

But as The Chronicle of Higher Education reports, Louisiana’s four university systems will have a hard time shaking off nearly a decade of budget cuts. And more could be on the way with the state facing a roughly $1 billion budget shortfall that’s unlikely to be closed by raising taxes.

Most of the higher education cuts were made during the administration of former Gov. Bobby Jindal, who reduced income taxes and used reserve funds to help balance the budget. Gov. John Bel Edwards signed off on additional cuts like last year’s TOPS reduction.

More problematic: Louisiana lagged behind other states in education investment and degree attainment prior to 2008. Without question, other cash-strapped states forced universities to cut programs and consolidate administrative offerings, but a sizeable number have already begun to restore its funding of public higher education.

Nationwide, funding remains far from pre-recession levels. But taken as an aggregate, the 50 states have increased their appropriation per student by 3.3% over the past five years. Louisiana, meanwhile, has decreased its funding per student by 33.1%, more than any other state, a recently released report from the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association says. And since the recession, Louisiana’s overall higher-education appropriations are down 43.4%.

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