higher education

 The final half-hour of the 2015 legislative session seemed more like an auction than lawmaking, as the House approved dozens of bills in the last 30 minutes. When the gavel came down at 6 p.m. Thursday, nobody was quite sure what-all we had bought — not even Gov. Jindal.

“The process isn’t over,” Jindal told reporters during a post-session press conference. “Obviously, we do want to look carefully through every bill for any unintended consequences.”

Now that we’ve had a few days to examine our “purchases”, here’s what we ended up with:

First, a $24-billion budget.

The bill that was supposed to save the budget from Governor Bobby Jindal’s veto pen sank in House committee Wednesday.

Jack Donahue’s SB 284, known as the SAVE bill, would have created a fee on college students. Students wouldn’t actually pay it; instead, just by registering for classes, they would assign the tax credit for that “fee” over to higher education’s Board of Regents.

“This, to me, just seems like it’s a gimmick,” Gonzales Rep. Eddie Lambert said of the scheme. “Why are we doing this?”

House and Senate committees worked on numerous bills Wednesday, while awaiting today’s main event: the House floor debate on the budget. Several of those bills were previously featured here on Capitol Access.

Jack Donahue’s Senate-approved bill to uncouple TOPS from college tuition found favor with the House Education committee, helped along by the widow of the program’s founder, Phyllis Taylor.

“I would never stand here and support anything that limited the TOPS program,” Taylor told the committee. “We are seeking certainty, not limitations.”

Remember the MOOC?

Just a few years ago, the Massive Open Online Course was expected to reinvent higher education. Millions of people were signing up to watch Web-based, video lectures from the world's great universities. Some were completing real assignments, earning certificates and forming virtual study groups — all for free.

Surely the traditional college degree would instantly collapse.

As state lawmakers grapple with the $1.6-billion shortfall in the next budget, the House Appropriations Committee has asked budget analysts to investigate each department’s fiscal ups-and-downs over the Jindal administration years. Legislative budget analyst Chris Keaton says overall state revenues have dropped much less than the shortfall would indicate.

“Total state General Fund that we had available to spend went from $9.3-billion in 2006-07, to $9-billion in 2015-16,” Keaton announced Wednesday.

It's late afternoon. Most classes at Randolph College are done for the day but students have begun gathering in the lobby of the elegant, century-old main hall.

A student taps on a piano while he and four classmates wait for their philosophy professor. After-hours sessions like these are a key feature of this small, private liberal arts college in Lynchburg, Va.

It markets itself nationally as a "unique, nurturing community of learners," well worth the $45,000 a year in tuition, room and board.

When it comes to higher education, we've all heard the talking points: More people than ever are pursuing four-year degrees — despite skyrocketing tuition costs — because they don't have many other choices if they want to be competitive in the workforce.

"I went to a four-year university." "That job requires a one-year certificate." "It's a two-semester course." "She's a fifth-year senior." What do these expressions have in common? They use time as the yardstick for higher education.

Essentially, this means measuring not how much you've learned, but how long you've spent trying to learn it.

LSU Faculty Senate President, and the always well informed and loquacious Kevin Cope joins Jim today in the studio for the majority of the show to discuss financial matters concerning LSU and the LSU Faculty. He and Jim discuss the 3% pay raise for the LSU faculty members, how the school was able to find space in the budget for it, and what it means for Louisiana's higher education which has faced budget cuts in the past decade. They as well cover a plethora of other topics including a new smoke-free LSU campus, LSU Baseball, Vladimir Putin, and the San Diego Chargers, as well as much, much more.

Also, newly appointed Curator of the LSU Museum of Art, Katy Pfohl, joins Jim in studio to close out today's show and to promote the upcoming art exhibit "LeRoy Neiman:Action!" Considered the most important and inspiring sports artist of the twentieth century, LeRoy Neiman's artwork displays athletes in their element: whether that be Shaquille O'neal dunking or Tony La Russa coaching in the dugout. The exhibit begins July 31st and runs through February 15th.


 “I don’t have a warm fuzzy feeling about this,” Senate Finance Committee chairman Jack Donahue said, regarding a proposed constitutional amendment to help Higher Ed.

The House-approved measure that would have dedicated state funding for colleges and universities was shot down in Donahue’s committee late last week. Donahue, who also serves on the Senate Education Committee, said he supported the concept but was reluctant to lock up any more state dollars.

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