Louisiana rewrites master plan, goals for public colleges

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s top higher education board adopted a new roadmap for the state’s public colleges and universities on Wednesday, seeking to boost educational attainment for black students and get more adults back into the classroom to learn new skills.

The master plan approved unanimously by the Board of Regents strives for a high achievement goal, for six in 10 working-age adults to hold a college degree or other employment credential beyond a high school diploma by 2030. Fewer than half of Louisiana’s adults aged 25 to 64 currently have achieved that benchmark.

A year of work went into rewriting the statewide plan governing public higher education, the first wholesale revamp since the master plan was developed nearly 20 years ago.

“This is so critically important to the future of our state and to the future of our families,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards, who attended the meeting to praise the updated master plan.

The new version doesn’t tally up the costs of its recommendations, such as expanding the number of dual-enrollment, college credit courses available to high school students, expanding financial aid opportunities and increasing work-based learning programs that widen skills training availability.

The Regents will need to sell those suggestions to lawmakers.

But that wasn’t the focus of Wednesday’s adoption of the new master plan, where the Democratic governor and leaders of the four public college systems applauded the setting of new priorities and achievement targets.

“We know the hard work happens after we approve this plan,” said Commissioner of Higher Education Kim Hunter Reed. “But we are ready.”

Louisiana adopted its first statewide higher education master plan in 2001, creating statewide college admissions standards and including a funding formula to divvy up dollars from the state. A state law required an updated document by Sept. 1.

The admissions standards remain intact in the new version. The priorities of the funding formula have shifted slightly, to reward schools that meet the priorities of the plan, such as completion of a degree or other employment credential by low-income students, minority students and adults who are 25 and older.

But more broadly, the plan charts a vision that the state and its higher education campuses should be working to achieve. The document estimates that if Louisiana reached the 2030 goal, it would see a $1.9 billion increase in tax collections, while also saving money on the Medicaid program and corrections system.

The plan looks for ways to eliminate equity gaps between white and minority students and help adults who long ago left school to get a skills-based credential or other educational training. It says Louisiana must find ways to advance educational attainment for nontraditional students, youth in foster care and inmates who will eventually leave prison and need to find work.

An estimated 56% of jobs will require education beyond a high school diploma in 2020, but only 44% of Louisiana adults aged 25 to 64 have a skills-based certificate or college degree, according to Regents data.

To reach the 2030 goal will require producing 45,000 more credentials annually in 11 years — whether a skills certificate, associate degree or university degree — than students received in 2018. That would more than double the 40,000 credentials produced in 2018. Significant growth will be needed in the credentials obtained by African-American residents.

The Board of Regents intends to publish annual reports about how efforts to reach the 2030 goals are progressing.

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Our opinion: Let’s try this reform thing again

Momentum continues to build for a rewrite of the state constitution, something Louisiana has needed for years.

Proponents see it as a way the state can start from scratch on a tax and spending structure that will put Louisiana on solid financial footing for the long-term. It would have sweeping effects on who pays taxes and how much. And it would set spending priorities for important state services such as health, education, roads and saving coastal communities like Terrebonne and Lafourche from inundation.

Issues missing from campaign

Candidates for the Louisiana Legislature who want to help run this state for the next four years haven’t given voters much red meat during what has so far been a lackluster campaign.

The same can be said about the three major candidates for governor. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has talked about his record, which is a good one, but we need more. And we definitely need to hear more from Republican candidates — U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham of Alto and businessman Eddie Rispone of Baton Rouge — other than how much they agree with the policies of President Trump.

Voters challenged to make difference

A high turnover of seats in the Louisiana Legislature could make the statewide elections in October and November some of the most important in the state’s recent history. Three well-respected nonpartisan organizations are going all out to get voters involved because they are the only ones who can bring about changes that will help Louisiana rise off the bottom of too many rankings.

The Committee of 100, the Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL) and the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana are telling voters how they can help “RESET Louisiana’s Future.”

Our opinion: RESET Louisiana’s Future and get on board

As the current gubernatorial and legislative races kick into high gear in the coming weeks, several good-government advocacy groups are seeking a switch from political grandstanding to substantive ideas.

They are right. And it is up to us to demand it from our candidates for public office.

The effort, RESET Louisiana’s Future, is being led by the Committee of 100, the Council for a Better Louisiana and the Public Affairs Research Council. Those are three groups with a great name for the work they do. And they are getting behind a laudable goal – shifting from raw politics to actual change that will make our state a better place for our kids and grandkids.

Learning from the best | Report applauds Louisiana’s education overhaul efforts

Bold changes to Louisiana’s public schools have created a model education system that other states can learn from, according to a recent report by RAND Corporation, a global public policy research organization.

Since Superintendent John White’s appointment in 2012, the state has restructured its early childhood education system and its requirements for graduates and teachers, core curriculum and graduation pathways for college and career.

One key to Louisiana’s success was the “buy-in” from local, state and auxiliary agencies, aided by streamlined communication.

Lawmakers: Tax reform hard but necessary

Three Republicans at a public event Monday night said simplifying the state’s complex tax structure is easier said than done but agreed reform is necessary.

In general, the state’s tax rates are relatively high, though a plethora of exemptions means the effective tax burden for many taxpayers is relatively low. Critics argue this situation unduly advantages those who can afford to hire attorneys and accountants to game the system.

If Kansas can do it, Louisiana can, too

Louisiana is a long way from becoming a top state for business, ranking in the bottom 10. However, the Pelican state is No. 2 in the South for Economic Development Efforts. The Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL) credits the No. 2 rating to the fact the state’s industrial sector has been here a long time and the area is more welcoming to that kind of industry.

State’s needs are tough sell

Three of Louisiana’s most respected nonpartisan organizations are working together this election season on a program they call RESET. It is important for candidates and voters to understand that nonpartisan means these organizations are unbiased, impartial, neutral and objective.