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Little negative fallout to come from TOPS cuts

If a student has depended upon or counted on in their future the Taylor Opportunity Program for Scholars to fund fully their tuition, or is a university administrator searching for revenue, it’s not the end of the world, it’s the just the real world.

For the first time since its founding as a statewide quasi-merit, quasi-entitlement program almost two decades ago, the state will pay only a portion of total tuition bills to attend Louisiana institutions of higher learning. Before the Louisiana State University System schools raised their tuitions this week that changes overall calculations slightly downwards, the typical state public institution student would see 95 percent of the bill covered in the fall and, unless unanticipated revenues emerge before the end of the year, around 40 percent for terms in the first half of next year.

Some have taken to declare the end is nigh for the higher education experience in the state, where about a fifth of all students use the program. That proportion nearly is four times higher at LSU Baton Rouge, given its (relatively) stricter admission standards, large contingent of traditional (first-time, full-time) undergraduate students, and highest in-state tuition, leading its Pres. F. King Alexander to lament that the cut will cost the campus students and thus revenues.


Loyola NO secular dalliance leading to its decline

The troubles experienced by New Orleans’ Loyola University both are predictable and were preventable, mirroring national trends by colleges operating under a bishop’s imprimatur.

It seems the school must undergo a third round of retrenchment in three years to stay open. Involving substantial layoffs because of disappointing enrollments, this has provoked faculty unrest, leading to yet another nonconfidence motion against its president the Rev. Kevin Wildes.

Wildes alleged in the past that generally declining high school graduations have put Loyola into difficulty. But that ignores nationally this bottomed out a couple of years ago and has since increased, while higher education enrollment has slipped since 2011. Louisiana has followed the nation’s elementary and secondary education with its recent graduation rates rising even faster.


Edwards order politicizes tax exemption program

Last month Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards issued an executive order that will do nothing to save state taxpayers money or promote economic development and will increase the incentives for local governments to make deals to empower them, if not steer preferential treatment towards local politicians and their allies.

Edwards’ JBE 16-26 covers the way in which the state implements its Industrial Tax Exemption Program. This allows the state through its Board of Commerce and Industry, most of whose members the governor appoints and serve concurrently with him, to give out exemptions from, among things, local property taxes for five or ten years. Statute deliberately defines these breaks as needed because of the uncompetitive tax structure in Louisiana that means businesses pay most property taxes.

By the Constitution and regulation, a firm must certify it is wanting to enter but feels discouraged from doing so or is threatening to leave the state because of the uncompetitive tax structure, fill out paperwork justifying the exemption, and negotiate a contract with several state agencies that may have additional contractual conditions added such as for performance. After five years, it can petition to have another five years’ worth of exemption and to have certain kinds of expenditures included.


Independence Day, 2016

This column publishes every Sunday through Thursday around noon U.S. Central Time (maybe even after sundown on busy days, or maybe before noon if things work out, or even sometimes on the weekend if there's big news) except whenever a significant national holiday falls on the Monday through Friday associated with the otherwise-usual publication on the previous day (unless it is Thanksgiving Day, Independence Day, Christmas, or New Year's Day when it is the day on which the holiday is observed by the U.S. government). In my opinion, in addition to these are also Easter Sunday, Memorial Day and Veterans' Day.

With Monday, Jul. 4 being Independence Day, I invite you to explore the links connected to this page.


The Advocate column, Jul. 3, 2016

Despite whining Louisiana higher education not in funding crisis