Jeremy Alford

Treasurer opposes closure of four-year universities

by Jeremy Alford

Even though speculation over the possible closure of a four-year university has produced more anxiety than actual proof, state Treasurer John Kennedy brought up the topic on his own during his address to the Baton Rouge Press Club Monday and said it would be a “bad idea.” The state’s five-year budget outlook forecasts a $1 billion shortfall in Fiscal Year 2011, which begins next July, and a $2 billion reduction in money for Louisiana government in Fiscal Year 2012. “But it could go higher than that,” Kennedy says.

In response, House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Terrytown, has created the Postsecondary Education Review Commission to help lessen the impact on Louisiana’s colleges and universities. While concrete recommendations have yet to come forth, scuttlebutt about the closure of one or more four-year universities has run rampant. When asked Monday which university in particular he was concerned about, Kennedy refused to comment further. “In my judgment, we do not have too many colleges,” Kennedy says.

The treasurer also continued to lobby for a single board for higher education, rather than the various panels running the show now. Louisiana presently has three systems of higher education — the LSU System, the Southern System and the University of Louisiana System. Each also has its own board of supervisors. “We need a government structure for higher education that looks like someone designed it on purpose,” Kennedy says.