Why Louisiana needs a single board of higher education

Louisiana’s excellent colleges and universities are being held back and Louisiana taxpayers are being short-changed by the way we choose to govern higher education.

We don’t have too many schools, in my opinion. We have too many schools that try to do the same thing.

We are one state, but we have three systems of higher education— the LSU System, the Southern System and the University of Louisiana System— each with its own board of supervisors. The fine men and women who serve on these boards do what the law and custom tell them to do: protect and try to expand their turf. Conflict and crisis thus reign over consensus and cooperation, which makes it almost impossible for the Board of Regents to do its job of overseeing the systems and their boards.

As State Treasurer, I chair the Louisiana Streamlining Government Commission’s subcommittee on efficiency and benchmarking which has recently recommended abolishing the three systems of higher education and their boards and placing all of our four-year schools under the control of the Board of Regents.

A single board would develop the unique assets of each campus, and decide how many schools of engineering—or nursing or journalism— we really need and can afford. Under a single board, LSU would be our flagship, but the board would be open to the ambitions of all our schools.

A single board would also be able to make strategic decisions based on data and resources, not politics and turf, helping to prepare for Louisiana’s future educational demands.

29% of all Americans have a college degree or higher, but only 21% of Louisianans do. With serious budget shortfalls facing us, we will continue to fall behind unless we spend every penny wisely. The current three-system, four dueling-board governance structure should be replaced with a single board of diverse men and women who care about one thing: making our colleges and universities as good as they can be with the hard-earned taxpayer dollars we have available to us.

John Neely Kennedy is the State Treasurer of Louisiana. He earned a bachelor of arts degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1973, a Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia School of Law at Charlottesville in 1977, and an advanced law degree (B.C.L.) from the University of Oxford in 1979.

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