So I'm off surfing the Delphi boards and I stumble across this story on the ULL board about how LSU is floating a $1.6 billion bond proposal to help improve infrastructure at state colleges, all the way down to the technical and community college level (See story here: http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/metro/index.ssf?/base/news-1/1074495419160620.xml ) Now I may be wearing purple and gold glasses, but I think this is a great idea. Louisiana's colleges are all certainly in need of repairs and better funding across the board. But the ULL folks don't like the fact that of the $1.6 billion, the LSU System will get over $900 million of that, with $485 million going to the University of Louisiana System, $130 million going to community and technical colleges, and $60 million going to the Southern University System. This is a revolutionary idea, one that is long overdue, where everyone's needs have been inventoried and funds allocated to address them. But all they can do is bemoan the fact that big, bad LSU is getting the most money, that it is another step backward, and that, if only Louisiana were a state with two major universities instead of one (with the other major school named "The University of Louisiana" and located in Lafayette, of course) then all our higher education problems would be magically solved. That got me to thinking. Is the "two-flagship" or "multiple major college" higher education system inherently better than the "one-flagship" model? To think about this, we must first identify which states use which systems, to see who is the best and who we can model ourselves after. In my research, which has been done over a period of three years (off-and-on) I've been able to identify which states use which systems. In states with "two-flagship" higher education models, one of two patterns are followed: A) One college is officially designated the "liberal arts/humanities/natural sciences" college, while another is designated the "agricultural/mechanical/engineering" college, or B) one, older university is established, then, as populations and political power bases shift, another major university is established in a different part of the state. I count 23 states which fit the "two-flagship" model. State: Liberal Arts College, Ag./Tech. College Alabama: University of Alabama, Auburn University Arizona: University of Arizona, Arizona State University Colorado: University of Colorado, Colorado State University Delaware: University of Delaware, Delaware State University Florida: University of Florida, Florida State University Georgia: University of Georgia, Georgia Technical Institute Indiana: Indiana University, Purdue University Iowa: University of Iowa, Iowa State University Kansas: Kansas University, Kansas State University Michigan: University of Michigan, Michigan State University Mississippi: University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University Montana: University of Montana, Montana State University Nevada: University of Nevada at Reno, University of Nevada at Las Vegas New Mexico: University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University North Carolina: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (flagship and HQ campus of UNC System), North Carolina State University North Dakota: University of North Dakota, North Dakota State University Oklahoma: Oklahoma University and Oklahoma State University Oregon: University of Oregon, Oregon State University South Carolina: University of South Carolina, Clemson University South Dakota: University of South Dakota, South Dakota State University Utah: University of Utah, Utah State University Virginia: University of Virginia, Virginia Polytechnic Institute Washington: University of Washington, Washington State University In some of the largest states multiple major colleges have been established, more than likely because the larger populations demand that their population center's educational and research needs be serviced by a large, nationally prominent university. But this spread movement is not confined to large states. Indeed, some of the smallest states have decentralized higher education systems. There are five such states: Alaska- The University of Alaska System has three major campuses: UA-Anchorage, UA-Fairbanks, and UA-Southeast, in Juneau. No one campus has any form of rank or privilege over the others. The largest is Anchorage (about 14,000 students) but the Board of Directors and system offices are in the state capital of Juneau. California- There are two university systems in California, but the systems are so sprawling and massive, and so equal in size and funding to each other, that no one campus can be held above the others. Berkeley and UCLA are branch campuses in the University of California System, albeit the largest branches, while the CSU System boasts equally large branches at Cal Tech, Cal Poly, CSU-San Diego, and CSU-Fresno. California is such a massive state, nearly every major population center has a large four year college. Idaho- Like Alaska, three universities share power and prestige in this small mountain state. The University of Idaho was originally the only school. Idaho State University became a four year school in 1947, after years of being suppressed by UI. Boise State University, originally a junior college, attained four year status in 1965 and is now the largest university in Idaho with over 18,000 students. While power and funding is now pretty much equal, Idaho State and Boise State have not forgotten that they had to fight U of I every step of the way to achieve that equality, and they loudly protest any moves by the State Board of Education they see as favorable to U of I. New York- Another state that grew so large de-centralization was the only solution to the squabbling between different population centers. There is a SUNY (State University of New York) System with multiple campuses, as well as the large City College of New York and several small, publicly funded liberal arts colleges such as York College and Berkley College. Texas- Texas is the state that has the most "major" colleges and college systems. The University of Texas System (flagship in Austin), the Texas A&M University System (flagship in College Station) and the Texas Tech University System (flagship in Lubbock) all vie for students and funding. Add to that the up-and-coming Texas State University in San Marcos and the University of North Texas in Denton, and you've got a crowded field. That's not even including the many smaller public universities which are not aligned with any of the major systems. Despite this, it is not as chaotic as California or New York. UT-Austin and Texas A&M remain a cut above all the rest. That leaves 22 states with only one major "flagship" university. Most are very small states. It is not uncommon that the designated college is the only four year public institution in that state. Here is each state and it's flagship: Arkansas- University of Arkansas Connecticut- University of Connecticut Hawaii- University of Hawaii Illinois- University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana Kentucky- University of Kentucky Louisiana- Louisiana State University and A&M College Maine- University of Maine Maryland- University of Maryland at College Park Massachusetts- University of Massachusetts Minnesota- University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Central Campus Missouri- University of Missouri at Columbia Nebraska- University of Nebraska at Lincoln New Hampshire- University of New Hampshire New Jersey- Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey Ohio- The Ohio State University Pennsylvania- Pennslyvania State University Rhode Island- University of Rhode Island Tennessee- University of Tennessee at Knoxville Vermont- University of Vermont West Virginia- West Virginia University Wisconsin- University of Wisconsin at Madison Wyoming- University of Wyoming So there's your lineup. Now the question is, is one system inherently better than the other? One cannot deny the tremendous achievements of the higher ed. systems of California and Texas. De-centralization, whether the more limited model of Texas or the utter chaos of California, worked for them. But would it work for Louisiana? I don't think it would look too pretty to see LSU, UNO, UL-Lafayette, La. Tech, ULM, SLU, and Southern and their respective cabals of supporters having at one another in the Legislature for the limited funding we are given every single year. In fact, this system would be disastrous for the other colleges in the short term, as LSU pretty much owns the Legislature and the Board of Regents and gets what it wants. We could, if we so desired, put most, if not all, the other four-year colleges in the state out of business. Then they would really hate us! :sob: So I don't think de-centralization is the answer for us like it is for Texas and California. What about a two-flagship model? The state I keep hearing the UL System folks cite as the one we should follow is Alabama. But although Alabama and Auburn are solid universities, I don't see them topping the lists U.S. News & World Report put out every year. When I think of "two flagship" states held in great esteem for academic achievement, two states immediately pop into mind; North Carolina and Virginia. Again, one cannot deny the great achievements of North Carolina, N.C. State, UVA and Va. Tech in academic excellence and research. But would that approach necessarily work for Louisiana? And, even if you could get the approval of 50%+1 of the people, the Legislature, the Board of Regents, and get LSU to drop a host of academic programs and take the funding cut to allow another university to rise as it's equal, who would you pick? The folks at UL-Lafayette, oh, excuse me, "The University of Louisiana," are so certain it should be them. And they are the second largest university in Louisiana, with 19,000 students, and the largest in the UL System, and the only university in the state that has achieved Doctoral II status (LSU is Doctoral I). But one could easily make the case that Louisiana Tech University in Ruston or the University of New Orleans should be the chosen new rival of LSU. La. Tech is in the process of a $110 million dollar campus construction upgrade and achieving Doctoral II status. And because they are a designated agricultural and engineering college, they would make the natural complement to LSU, not to mention balance more geographically. But they are still quite small to take on such status. And let's be honest, LSU would not take to kindly to having to share the power it has enjoyed alone for quite sometime. Nor would their be a popular groundswell of support from Louisianians for such a change. So it appears we are stuck with the "one-flagship model" for the foreseeable future. Does that mean, as the ULS school supporters so often claim, that Louisiana higher education is doomed to failure and insignificance? Not in my humble opinion. One need only look to highly successful states with the "one-flagship" model, states such as Ohio, Wisconsin, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey, and even fellow Southern states like Kentucky and Tennessee, whose universities routinely rank high in U.S. News and World Report Collegiate rankings, to see that it is possible for us to retain our current system and be highly successful and a national leader in academic achievement and research. Of course, changes are needed. A few universities may have to be closed, or have their structure and mission completely redefined. And of course, every university in this state should be fully funded and every Louisiana child who has the ability and the desire should be able to go to college, and if not at LSU, have the chance to get a top quality education at another state school. But we can do it, and LSU can, and should, lead the way. The infrastructure is already here. The foundation is already being laid. Instead of continued squabbling, proposals like the aforementioned bonds should be encouraged and all universities in Louisiana need to bury old hatchets and get behind this. It is key to the future of Louisiana. I would love to hear others opinions on the current state of higher education in Louisiana, and ya'lls opinions on what, if any, changes are needed in our current system.