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Louisiana Higher Ed Confessions

March 23, 2015

In this post, I feature a new blog on the Bayou State education block, Its author uses the pen name, ulyankee. This person has commented on some of my past blog posts.

(S)he just concluded a series of posts (originally supposed to be three but extended to four posts) that are packed with information (and data) related to issues surrounding higher ed admission in Louisiana, including detailed discussion about how Louisiana graduates are being shut out of their own state’s institutions of higher ed– a shut-out especially evident for Louisiana’s African-American graduates.

Lots of useful, enlightening information in these posts.

For each of the four posts, I have selected just a smatch of information to highlight.

The first post is entitled, Bobby Jindal’s Anti-Tax Cult and John White’s “Reformers”: Working Together to Keep More Kids Out of State UniversitiesBelow is my selected excerpt:

In admissions, it is my job to (1) market and recruit qualified students to my institution (2) assess whether the students we actually attract—our prospective students and applicants—can be admitted to my institution—and give every applicant the best allowable chance to get in and (3) get as many qualified, admitted applicants to convert to enrolled students at the beginning of their first semester in college.

This sounds no different than private sector jobs in marketing or sales. And I use a lot of marketing and sales techniques in my job, especially a modified version of a concept marketers call the sales funnel. But I am keenly aware that I’m not selling refrigerators or toothpaste. …

All new freshmen graduating from Louisiana high schools must:

  • Graduate from high school with 19 units from the Regents’ Core 4 curriculum
  • Have a 2.0 overall GPA
  • Not need any developmental coursework in math or English
    • For most Louisiana high school graduates, this translates to getting an 18 ACT English and 19 ACT math

There are also three additional levels of admission criteria depending on the institution.

The additional minimum standards for each university tier are:

  • Flagship (LSU): 3.0 Regents’ core GPA OR 25 ACT composite
  • Statewide (ULL, LaTech and UNO): 2.5 Regents’ core GPA OR 23 ACT composite
  • Regional (the other 10 four-year universities): 2.0 Regents’ core GPA OR 20 ACT composite

The other piece is that effective at the statewide schools in fall 2012, and the regional universities in fall 2014, four year universities are no longer allowed to offer developmental courses. This is in the GRAD Act statute. It is not just policy that can be changed by the Board of Regents. It is a law that must be changed by our legislature.

Remember the enrollment drops at UNO? And several other universities reporting enrollment drops this past fall? Only one regional institution—LSUA—experienced a marked increase in freshman enrollment. It benefits from its location and demographics, enrolling the lowest percentage of African American students of all the four-year regional universities.

Bingo. State law. Jindal’s fault (while the leges bear some blame, they didn’t run a university system and wouldn’t be expected to know the impact like Jindal did). Not ours. But it looks like our fault. And it looks on the surface like, dang!, we really do have too many colleges in this state, and they should close, merge or privatize. Not a good year for that to happen, no? Was this… PLANNED?

The series continues with the second installment, The State Minimum University Admission Criteria: The Game the House Always WinsMy selected highlight:

All the four-year institutions across the three university tiers, from LSU down to the smallest and most underfunded regionals all share the same basic minimum criteria—18 ACT English and 19 ACT math. The main difference among them is in the high school core GPA—3.0 for LSU, 2.5 for UL Lafayette, LaTech and UNO, and 2.0 for everyone else. Sounds fair, doesn’t it?

However, once a student gets below a 3.0 GPA, it becomes increasingly likely that the student will fall below the minimum ACT English and math cut scores for college admission. After factoring in students who qualify for LSU because of their composite scores instead of GPA, only about 13% of students who qualify for four year college admission have a GPA between a 2.5 and 3.0, which is the market that the statewide institutions have that they do not share with LSU.

And once a student gets below a 2.5 GPA, there is an almost impossible chance they will meet these criteria. Only 4% of students who met the published minimum admission criteria in Louisiana last year had a GPA below a 2.5.

Four percent.

That is the market that the ten regional institutions, which collectively enroll half of the four-year university students in the state, does not share with the other four universities.

Among African American students it was even worse. Out of the entire graduating class of just under 17,000 African American students, only 15% met the published admission standards, and fewer than 200 of those students met the regional-only standard.

Moving on to part three, entitled, John White’s Spinning Wheel of ACT Scores: More Students Are Qualified to Go to College Except When They Actually Try to GoAgain, what is below is only a hint:

The overall sizes of Louisiana’s African American graduating classes have boomed in the last four years—and especially between 2013 and 2014. And as among the general population, the percentage of students graduating with the Core 4 curriculum has also risen almost ten percentage points.

But remember, from my last post in this series, how many of these students met the state’s official admission standards in 2014 according to ACT data?

2,379. 14% of all African American grads, and 22% of Core 4 completing grads.

Snowball, meet hell.

This isn’t because our kids aren’t getting college ready.

It is because the game is rigged.

My counterparts and I should be celebrating because more kids are college-ready. We should be growing. More students are graduating, and more students are graduating with Core 4. Heck, more students are getting that magic! 18 ACT composite. So that should be more students for both the four-year and two-year schools. Yay, us!

But, no. Collectively, nearly 10,000 fewer students were enrolled in Louisiana’s state colleges and universities in fall 2014 than in fall 2010.

We have been cut on both sides. The two-year schools, LSU and two of the three statewide universities have suffered more on the funding side, so they are less and less able to handle the students coming through their doors. UNO and the regional universities, especially the HBCUs, have also been heavily impacted on the enrollment side, through imposing admission standards designed to make Louisiana stronger by making government smaller shrink enrollment at our state universities.

But hey, maybe if we shut down some of those regionals, then there will be more money for LSU and the community colleges, right?

And, finally, for part four– one that “hits home” for privatized New Orleans: The “RSD Miracle” and College Readiness in Orleans Parish: Where Doing the Right Thing Isn’t Getting You into Our State’s Colleges and Universities:

Students aren’t qualifying for admission to our state’s universities in the first place.

And nowhere is that more evident in our state than in Orleans Parish, especially in RSD schools and among its high poverty, underserved students.

The ACT is biased. Bobby Jindal’s GRAD Act and the corollary admission criteria take full advantage of that in order to keep “certain” students out of college. Those students are almost exclusively African American (almost 90% of the regional university enrollment drop in 2014), and while these exact data aren’t available yet for Louisiana, based on the data I do have they are more than likely lower income students, since performance on the ACT is clearly linked to income. They are the students and from the families who do not have a voice to begin with.  …

Over one-third of Orleans Parish’s African American 2014 graduates did not go to any state postsecondary institution. Not to UNO or SUNO. But also not to Delgado or Nunez.

We have succeeded in sending fewer students to state universities.

We have succeeded in sending a lower percentage of students to any state post-secondary institutions.

We have succeeded in growing our “opportunity youth” population in Orleans Parish and statewide.

This isn’t the way to send more of our high school graduates to our state’s institutions unless, of course, they are our prisons. Oh, wait, which we’ve privatized along with our schools and hospitals. So maybe they don’t really count.

Raising standards won’t fix the problem.

Privatizing and chartering schools won’t fix the problem. All that does is funnel even more money and resources to the private sector and away from our kids.

Addressing poverty will.

And one way to address poverty is to give students access to affordable public higher education. Even some conservatives agree on this one.

Another way is to support social programs that address poverty. Not happening in our state or even in our nation right now.

Some miracle.

Let’s give Bobby Jindal and John White a big hand clap. If this is what you guys intended, it worked brilliantly.

Lots of information. Well worth poring over.



  1. LAEducator permalink

    Yes, the game is rigged!

  2. Nimbus permalink

    Thanks for sharing these posts. I’ve been pondering how Common Core actually connects to “college readiness,” and this is certainly enlightening. You might be interested in this link if you have not already seen it. I would love to see it go viral as most high school teachers, parents, and administrators do not know the document exists

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