For example, the six year graduation rate at SUNO is an abysmal 5 percent. This is one of the worst rates in the country. Instead of challenging the horrible performance at SUNO, one speaker at the rally yesterday vowed to “retain SUNO forever.” Of course the speaker was an English professor who wants to maintain his nice salary. In the meantime, the institution is failing the students, the community that it serves and the taxpayers who are footing the bills. Dividing the amount of money SUNO receives from the state government each year by the number of annual graduates, the cost is an astounding $78,000 per year. For that absurd sum, the State of Louisiana could send students to Harvard, Yale or Oxford with plenty of money to spare.
In a state that has a budget deficit of $1.6 billion, such pitiful performance is unacceptable. We need to cut spending in all areas of state government and this merger is a good place to start. SUNO and UNO are blocks apart and could thrive under a new name and mission. Not only is SUNO facing huge problems, but UNO is also in the midst of horrendous cutbacks and declines in enrollment. The school has only a 21 percent six year graduation rate, which is also unacceptable, and has been treated with neglect for years within the LSU system. One idea calls for the new name of the merged institution to be the University of Louisiana at New Orleans. This would be best for the institutions and especially the students. The new school would not be under the LSU or SUNO system and would have a chance at a fresh start.
This merger is an idea whose time has come. Louisiana has more colleges and universities than the state of Florida, even though we have only one-quarter of their population. Clearly, Florida does a better job with fewer universities.
The SUNO-UNO merger will hopefully be the start of higher education consolidation across the state. We do not need so many four year colleges and universities. It is time to convert some of these four year institutions to community colleges, which provide remedial training to students in need of educational assistance. This will give more students a chance to develop the necessary skills to succeed at a four year institution and in the work place.
Let’s not stop at the consolidation of colleges and universities. The state should also consolidate the four boards of higher education. Other than providing jobs for bureaucrats, there is no good reason why the state has so many boards of higher education. We should have one board with one mission of providing quality education.
To compete with our neighboring states, Louisiana needs to produce graduates who are equipped to deal with the challenges of the modern world. The current system is a total failure and a wasteful mess. The real losers are the taxpayers and the students who are getting an inferior education. Currently, SUNO and other universities in the state are not producing enough graduates each year. In the process, these universities are not providing a quality education. It is long past time for a major change to this ineffective system. Hopefully, state lawmakers will have the courage to look past the highly paid protestors and do what is best for the taxpayers and students of Louisiana.
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