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PAR Says Strengthen Regents’ Authority

Click here for a copy of the report.

A new report by the Public Affairs Research Council (PAR) recommends strengthened authority for the Board of Regents to enable the development of a more coherent and efficient statewide strategy for higher education. “Higher Education Governance Structure: Louisiana’s Options for Keeping Pace” finds that the governance structure of the state’s public postsecondary institutions fails to establish the clear authority necessary to shift resources toward achievement of greater efficiency and better outcomes.

In the past decade, special emphasis has been placed on developing performance goals to improve higher education outcomes in the state. Unfortunately, diluted authority for the Board of Regents (BoR) has led to reforms that have yielded only painstaking and incremental change. This analysis examines the relationships among the various governing boards and the Legislature to identify reforms that could clear the way for more consequential and accelerated improvement.

The PAR report recommends the following:

  1. Clarify the Constitution and statutes to establish Board of Regents as the statewide policy-setting agency for higher education with clear power and authority to enforce the master plan agenda at the system and institution levels.
  2. Appropriate operations funding for higher education strictly according to the formula funding calculations as defined by the Board of Regents.
  3. Require that ongoing development and adjustment to the new funding formula be done in a transparent and open process with input from major stakeholders.
  4. Conduct a comprehensive study and public debate to evaluate the merits of and barriers to consolidation or elimination of programs, institutions or management boards. The Board of Regents should recommend changes to the Legislature in time for consideration during the 2010 legislative session.

Although restructuring the state’s system of management boards and higher education institutions could potentially result in some increased efficiencies, the process would be fraught with political pitfalls and legal challenges, could take years to accomplish, if it could be done at all, and would spend scarce dollars on issues that would not guarantee increased student outcomes. Overcoming regional and racial barriers to change would be a long haul, but it is important that the BoR articulate the state’s options for major restructuring.

“As Louisiana moves past the years of budget surpluses into this new era of scarce resources for all services of state government, it is extremely important that we not lose sight of the value of higher education,” said PAR President Jim Brandt. “We must find a way to promote better outcomes with less money, and that requires clear and bold leadership as the foundation for strategic change.”

A 2008 PAR report on performance funding calls for revision of the state’s funding formula for higher education, establishment of institutional performance measures and design of a performance funding initiative. The recommendations in this report build on those proposed changes to enable the implementation of complex policy solutions that require careful coordination of statewide goals.

The primary author of the report is Cheryl Serrett, PAR Research Analyst. Funding for this research was provided by the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation.

For additional information or to download a copy of this report, write to PAR at P.O. Box 14776, Baton Rouge, LA 70898-4776, visit PAR’s Web site at www.la-par.org or call (225) 926-8414.

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