Higher Education Funding: The South’s Mobility Nightmare

Have you ever had one of those dreams where you’re trying your hardest to get to class on time but you just can’t get there? Or where you realize during final exams that you were registered for classes you never attended? What about the one where you realize that all of the classes you need to graduate have been cancelled completely?

That last scenario is becoming frighteningly possible for college students in Louisiana, where a state revenue crisis may lead to unprecedented cuts to the higher education system. As one LSU student told Inside Higher Ed: “I’m most scared that come fall, I’m going to wake up the next day…and some of my classes won’t be there anymore. Then my whole graduation plan is completely altered.” According to IHE:

Louisiana’s general fund contribution to higher education this year will be $924 million. But unless the legislature takes action within the next 45 days, that number plummets to $391 million for the next fiscal year, which starts in July.

That kind of catastrophic funding decrease isn’t just a nightmare for college students, faculty, and staff; it also has huge negative implications for the state’s economy and the economic mobility of its people. Like we said last week, a Southern economic mobility strategy must include education because a young person’s chances of moving up the income ladder are significantly dependent on educational attainment.

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Mardi Gras and Mobility

Mardi Gras and Mobility

Happy Mardi Gras! And welcome to the State of the South blog!

Since its publication last year, MDC’s State of the South report on the upward mobility of Southern young people—or, rather, the lack of it—has touched a nerve across the region. Starting today, we want to use this website to keep the conversation going, looking at issues and data related to economic mobility, as well as highlighting examples and insights about the ways that Southern communities are building what we called in the report an “infrastructure of opportunity.”

And this being Mardi Gras, we begin by taking a look at income mobility data in New Orleans where, today, hundreds of thousands of people are celebrating as parades featuring pretend kings and royalty roll through the streets. New Orleans has always been a place that celebrates its unique history and character, and Mardi Gras is emblematic of that. But unfortunately, Mardi Gras also has become more of a reflection of the economic inequities that grew in the waning years of the 20th Century, as tourism and a service economy replaced the port and oil business as the city’s largest employers. The pretend gap between royalty and common folk has become, unfortunately, much more real.

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