Shared from the 2018-06-07 American Press eEdition

OUR VIEW

Higher ed official had difficult tenure

Higher education officials are voicing strong praise for Joseph Rallo, the commissioner of higher education who is retiring. The Advocate correctly said Rallo spent most of his 42 months as commissioner watching aid for colleges and universities “slashed in historic ways.”

Former Govs. Kathleen Blanco and Mike Foster were advocates for higher education, and the two of them helped get Louisiana to the Southern regional average when higher education aid totaled $1.5 billion. That aid has dropped to $832 million since 2008.

“We have lost a decade,” Rallo said. “Here you really try to control the trajectory. And the trajectory has been to stop the budget cuts.”

Those cuts did stop last year, but the higher education budget hasn’t increased. Considering costs increase annually, the budget isn’t keeping up with demands.

Monty Sullivan, president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, said Rallo did a commendable job in nearly impossible circumstances.

Sullivan said, “This is the most difficult operating environment in the country for higher education. He (Rallo) managed it about as well as anyone could.”

Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie and a member of the Senate Education Committee, said Rallo did a good job considering the complex structure of higher education. He is referring to the five boards that administer colleges and universities in the state.

Innovation has been hard to come by, but Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Baton Rouge, credits Rallo as a key player in getting Louisiana’s latest push for science, technology, engineering and math education off the ground.

Rallo said the oil and gas economy that was so strong in earlier years gave people good-paying jobs without the need for higher education. However, times have changed, and he said many people don’t realize that.

“I wish we could convince the people of this state that we (higher education) are the economic engine of the state,” Rallo said.

We agree, and the sooner our political leaders accept that reality and properly fund higher education the sooner Louisiana will get off the bottom of all those education rating lists.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the board, whose members are Crystal Stevenson, John Guidroz, retired editor Jim Beam and retired staff writer Mike Jones.

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