Professor serves on Governor’s higher education committee

Olivia Barfield

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For Assistant Professor of Political Science Joshua Stockley, winter break was busier than planned.

Late last year, Stockley was chosen by now-Governor John Bel Edwards to serve on the Higher Education Transition Committee, which over the past 2 months has worked diligently to lay out a plan of what higher education should look like in Louisiana.

The committee had a lot to consider as far as constraints go, Stockley said. They met stockleywith experts of several fields to fully understand the parameters placed on higher education by Louisiana’s budget situation.

It is well known that the state faces huge fiscal obstacles that will complicate higher education reform. State funding for higher education has been cut by almost $700 million since 2008, and the state is expected to face a $1.9-billion-dollar budget deficit in the next fiscal year.

The committee developed a big-picture goal for higher education, and they discussed more detailed matters as well. According to Stockley, the committee also discussed levels of affordability, TOPS, 2-year schools as compared to 4-year schools, and college preparation in k-12 schools.

“We just tried to see what is a good state collective university system,” said Stockley.

While campaigning, Edwards identified higher education reform as one of his top priorities. His goals include bringing Louisiana up to the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) average, which it is well below, and lifting some of the financial load off of students.

Edwards has explicitly stated that he wants to see a 50/50 funding method for higher education, with 50% of the money coming from the state and 50% coming from students.

Before Jindal became governor, Louisiana had a 75/25 split, with 75% coming from the state and 25% coming from students.

Now it’s 8 years later, and things are reversed. We now have a 25/75 split, with 25% coming from the state and 75% coming from students.

According to Stockley, the days of a 75/25 state-to-student ratio are over, but meeting in the middle may be attainable.

“States can’t fund higher education like they used to a decade ago,” said Stockley.

However, he says they can still fund it at a great level. The state is aiming for a 50/50 state to student ratio because it would take some pressure off of students.

“We’re in a new fiscal era that demands students will have to just pick up a little bit more of the tab,” said Stockley.