More News from the Commission

My initial response to this remains: *Wow, didn’t these people get the memo?* Traditional Louisiana politics, at all levels, is to say lots of pleasantries outside of closed doors, close the doors, decide to do whatever you wanted to do all along, and then wait to announce the bad news at the last possible moment and shrug your shoulders for the short duration that the screams occur. (And they don’t last long because the jobless are usually trying to find a way to feed themselves and those who still have jobs are either too afraid to speak or have been conditioned not to speak.)

But this new lot is heralding a whole new era: the agenda is clear. Oh, it’s still cloaked in the dulcet tones of bureaucrats — improve efficiency, eliminate duplication — and they are careful not to reveal long held grudges — Wharton in particular has an axe to grind.

But this thing is called the Tucker Commission, and he’s the real man behind the scenes here. He is, I have been told, the real power behind Jindal and the man with his hands on the controls of the Republican machine in Louisiana. But he’s also one of the good old boys, not an ideologue. And so I have to believe that he doesn’t believe all this stuff. There’s something else going on, but I was gone from Louisiana for long enough that I know longer know the landscape, who stands to gain what. So my question is: *Who stands to gain from this gutting of higher education in Louisiana?*

* State Colleges May Lose Some Degree Programs *

Advocate Capitol News Bureau
Published: Nov 18, 2009 – Page: 1A

The state’s public colleges — especially regional universities — may have their academic degree programs scaled back, based on recommendations approved Tuesday by a state higher education review panel.

The Louisiana Postsecondary Education Review Commission also voted to propose equal funding for associate degree programs at community colleges and the two-year degrees at universities. Today, universities receive more money because the faculty members are paid more.

Commission member and former LSU Chancellor James Wharton pushed three other recommendations approved Tuesday.

“There may be graduate programs that don’t have anything to do with that region of the state,” Wharton said. “Should the state support graduate programs that don’t have anything to do with the region?”

Commission member Belle Wheelan, who is the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools president, said some of the bachelor’s degree-focused universities “grew too far.”

Commission member Mark Musick, the Southern Regional Education Board president emeritus, said regional universities should focus more on teaching undergraduates, while LSU must do a better job of attracting and educating graduate students.

Wharton has complained, for example, that too many public schools have specialized engineering programs. LSU, Southern University, the University of Louisiana at University [Lafayette?], Louisiana Tech University and the University of New Orleans all have multiple engineering degree programs. McNeese State University has a general engineering technology program.

Wharton on Monday and Tuesday has mentioned the University of Louisiana at Lafayette when discussing the outgrowth of regional universities and degree programs.

The review panel, often dubbed the Tucker Commission after House Speaker Jim Tucker who sponsored the legislation, is tasked with advising ways to streamline higher education. Gov. Bobby Jindal has asked the commission to recommend how to cut $146 million from college budgets during lean financial times.

Wharton’s approved recommendations were to:

  • Require the state’s higher education oversight body – the Board of Regents – to review the role, scope and mission of colleges to eliminate or minimize “mission creep.” That creeping involves colleges going beyond their basic missions, such as offering too many graduate-level degrees.

  • Require the Regents and college management boards to review and eliminate more duplicate academic programs and to reduce “excess hours” required to graduate in academic programs.

  • Require the Regents to consider program quality, state workforce needs, completion rates and other factors in the program reviews. The motion also would make the Regents complete annual update reports for the governor and legislative leaders.

“In some small way it does hold feet to the fire,” Wharton said. “But, more importantly, it informs our government officials.”

Regents Chairman Artis Terrell of Shreveport said, “You give us a job to do, and we’ll get the job done.”

Wharton warned that this process will go well beyond the commission’s agenda.

“Institutions are going to be arguing to keep all their programs in place, and this is going to play out over one, maybe two years,” Wharton said.

For instance, the Monroe Chamber of Commerce may lobby in Baton Rouge to keep programs from being cut at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, he said.

State Commissioner of Higher Education Sally Clausen said about 100 “low-completer” academic programs were axed statewide. Many were at technical college campuses and not universities.

Commission member David Longanecker, who is the president of the Western Interstate Commission of Higher Education, said next month he wants to discuss the state rearranging the structures of the state’s higher education systems.

The review commission next meets on Dec. 14-15 with focuses on funding issues and the makeup of the higher education systems.