Postsecondary education in Louisiana has made great progress in recent years. And though we still have some goals to reach, I am convinced that if we can maintain the momentum we’ve developed, Louisiana’s educational future is bright.

First and foremost, unprecedented support from our governor and legislature in recent years, now reinforced by a firm commitment to postsecondary education from Governor Blanco, is fueling education reform. For fiscal years 1983-1993, Louisiana ranked 48th in the nation in percentage funding increases, but for fiscal years 1994-2004 the state ranks 2nd in the nation.

Supported by that funding, some of our most significant milestones have been in the area of fostering student access and success, a primary objective of Louisiana’s Master Plan for Public Postsecondary Education. High on that list has been the creation and continuing development of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, which has seen enrollment growth of more than 50 percent since 2000. Other important advancements in this area include the establishment of an award-winning statewide electronic distance learning network and the establishment and expansion of a course articulation matrix.

In anticipation of expected changes in enrollment dynamics as our four-year admissions standards are fully implemented, all of our campuses have worked diligently to assess enrollment and recruitment strategies, develop enrollment management plans and address student retention.

In the all-important realm of quality and accountability, teacher education programs at all Louisiana public and private colleges of education have been redesigned, and the development of alternative certification programs continues.

An indication of our state leaders’ commitment to postsecondary education and of public confidence in our colleges and universities is the significant growth in endowments for chairs and professorships at our institutions statewide. Since 1986, the Board of Regents has been able to award some $214 million for endowed chairs and professorships, creating 196 $1 million chairs and 18 $2 million chairs at 20 universities across the state, as well as 1,267 endowed professorships at 34 campuses.

These initiatives are resulting in unparalleled improvements. Among other meaningful indicators:
  • enrollment continues to rise each year (including double-digit growth at our twoyear colleges for three years running);
  • retention rates are improving dramatically;
  • average ACT scores continue to rise;
  • state teacher certification exam passage rates are up;
  • the number of degrees and certificates awarded each year is going up steadily; and
  • program accreditation has improved from 84 to 95 percent since 2000.
Louisiana postsecondary education is headed in the right direction, and with the continued support of our elected leaders and our citizens, we will reach our goal of optimizing educational and economic opportunity for all of our citizens.

Commissioner of Higher Education

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The national State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) selected Louisiana as one of five states to showcase pre-kindergarten through college (PK-16) systems as models of successful programs for other states. Louisiana was selected because of its exemplary PK-16 collaborative initiative.

Louisiana was one of five states selected to participate in a forum to help the nation address literacy outcomes to support President George Bush’s Reading First federal legislation. The institute, hosted by the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the National Governors Association, was designed to assist states in advancing the literacy-related content of teacher preparation programs and to better coordinate existing literacy efforts in teacher education. Louisiana was selected by NGA because of its promising PK-16 initiative.

Louisiana was recognized by the National Governors Association as a “promising practice state” for its outstanding education reform initiatives. A national postsecondary education study ranked Louisiana among the top states to provide affordable access to public colleges and universities. The study, conducted by the Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation for Education, measured access to postsecondary education across the country.

When you get right down to it, education is economic development. Louisiana’s return on its investments in its colleges and universities is paying off in a big way—and our state will be stronger as a result.

Enrollment at Louisiana’s postsecondary institutions is the highest in the state’s history. This past fall saw a record enrollment statewide of 210,634 in our colleges and universities, nearly a 3 percent increase over fall 2002. The total includes an enrollment of 39,550 at Louisiana’s community colleges (up from 28,283 the previous fall), marking the second straight year for double-digit percentage enrollment increases at nearly every campus in the system. These increases confirm that our new and growing community college system is meeting an important need and attracting Louisiana citizens who have not historically accessed postsecondary education.

From 1996-1997 to 2001-2002, the first-year to second-year student retention rate statewide has risen from under 71 percent to approximately 75 percent, indicating that Louisiana’s college students are better prepared and experiencing improved success.

Since 1994-1995, the number of degrees and certificates awarded annually at Louisiana colleges and universities has increased from fewer than 23,000 to over 26,000.

The percentage of first-time freshmen requiring developmental (remedial) instruction has decreased dramatically, from over 45 percent in 1996 to 33 percent in 2002.

Louisiana has moved from 48th in the nation in percentage funding increases (1983-93) to second in funding for fiscal years 1994-2004. These increases are a testament to the administration’s firm commitment to the proposition that educational excellence and economic vitality are inextricably linked.

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