Search This Blog


If Oregon can, why not privatize LSU Baton Rouge?

Maybe it’s not possible, but the option should be considered: if the University of Oregon can do try to do it, why can’t Louisiana State University Baton Rouge?

That is essentially privatizing its operating functions. UO’s president Richard Lariviere has proposed to state government that it only continue to fund capital improvements to the Eugene campus for 30 years, and that tuition and endowments would cover other expenses. Eventually, with projected growth rates, all expenses could be covered without any state subsidy although the state still would govern the institution.

This is Lariviere’s attempt to smooth the cyclical nature that Oregon, like Louisiana, faces in its higher education funding, where some times things are flush, and other times lean. It’s bold reform that stands in stark contrast to the tinkering at the margins for which Louisiana’s elected officials and higher education administrators have settled.

But there are several significant differences between the two. First, it applies only to the state’s flagship institution because that probably is the only one which could attract enough endowment support for this to succeed. That’s probably also the case in Louisiana, where only LSUBR has the popularity and alumni base to pull it off, and certainly would appear to have the capacity to do so as the returns of the Forever LSU campaign demonstrate. Still, it would not be a total solution to the vagaries of higher education funding, even as LSUBR does take by far the largest plurality share of higher education dollars in the state.

Second, there would have to be a lot more ground to be made up. While Louisiana ranks in the top ten of states in public support to higher education, Oregon is in the bottom ten. UO gets only about $60 million annually from Oregon, less than 10 percent of its total revenues. By contrast, LSUBR gets almost six times that percentage even with recent budget cuts. The transition would have to happen over a longer period of time to account for the much larger reduction in state input.

Third, part of the transition would also have to happen with tuition increases. This would slice naturally some expenses since enrollment probably would decrease, especially because the Tuition Opportunity Program for Scholars, which pays for tuition for high school graduates that take prescribed courses and make certain minimal standardized test scores, probably would have be made more into a true scholarship program with higher standards because otherwise the state still is on the hook the increase. Whether this can be achieved politically is another matter.

Finally, Lariviere’s plan suggests a governance changes that would be awkward at best in Louisiana. Instructively, Oregon, whose population is not much less than Louisiana’s, only has eight baccalaureate-and-above universities on 11 campuses, governed by a single board (another structure exists for community colleges). His plan would create a new board to govern UO. Adopting a similar structure would add yet another governance board to the four already existing in Louisiana, three of which govern the state’s 14 baccalaureate-and-above institutions.

LSUBR's football team is chasing Oregon's for the national championship, and maybe the university itself in this innovative restructuring. This idea needs consideration as a long-term fix for as many Louisiana state universities as possible.


Landman of the Apocalypse said...

If your religious right cronies have their way, LSU might need to privatize just to keep teaching biology.

Anonymous said...

We should take our higher ed private and distribute the money we now use as subsidies to Louisiana residents seeking higher education.

The schools would be free to make the changes necessary to bring their expenses under control and would be free of political influence.

We would have a better educations system and spend less money.

Higher ed in Louisiana is bloated there is no question and typical of big organizations they are reluctant to make meaningful cuts like overhead cost and extension services and instead cut classroom services.

Too bad our governor has no real leadership.