BATON ROUGE -- Louisiana has a "surplus" of college graduates getting traditional four-year degrees and needs to steer more people into community and technical college programs to meet future job demand, the state's top labor official said Monday.
Curt Eysink, executive director of the Louisiana Workforce Commission, cited occupational forecasts that show the state will produce 10,312 more four-year graduates than there are jobs to fill between 2008 and 2016, while at the same time there are 3,892 more jobs available requiring associates' or technical degrees than there are people to fill them.
"We're producing a workforce that we cannot employ in Louisiana," Eysink told the Louisiana Postsecondary Education Review Commission, which is looking for ways to overhaul the state's higher education system.
The panel was created by the Legislature this year and is expected to deliver a plan to the Board of Regents by Feb. 12 outlining proposed changes to the state's colleges and universities. Gov. Bobby Jindal has directed the group to identify $146 million in possible budget cuts as the state prepares for years of likely budget shortfalls resulting from stagnant revenues and rising costs.
Eysink cited forecasting models that show the state's top-growing occupations to be low-skilled, service-industry jobs such as ticket-takers, cashiers and customer service representatives, as well as more skilled occupations such as nurses, teachers and trades such as welders and carpenters.
Several commission members were unhappy with the perspective, as Louisiana already trails the rest of the South and the nation as a whole in nearly every educational indicator, including the percentage of the population with college degrees. Only 21 percent of Louisiana residents ages 25 to 64 have a four-year degree or higher, compared to 26.4 percent for the South and 29 percent of the nation as a whole.
Saying a state has too many four-year graduates "is like telling a rich guy he has too much money," said Artis Terrell of Shreveport, a principal in the Williams Capital Group. "Can you ever have too many four-year degrees?"
Is this the best Jindal can do? We chould cut higher ed to make sure that the number of burger-flippers and dial-readers is sufficient for our low level industries. A guarantee of mediocrity for the next hundred years!
In this article, the BoR Chariman fired back.Commission members said while community and technical college enrollment needed to grow, they didn't think that needed to come at the expense of four-year university degrees.
"It's like telling a rich man he has too much money. Can you ever have too many four-year degrees?" said Artis Terrell, chairman of the Louisiana Board of Regents.For example, Terrell said Shaw Group Inc. founder and CEO Jim Bernhard recently told state officials that he chose to locate an engineering office in Charlotte, N.C., because of a shortage of engineers in Louisiana.
And to make matters worse, we ALREADY have a horrible graduation rate.
Only 5 percent of students graduate from two-year colleges compared with 16 percent in the region, said Joan Lord, a vice president of education policies for the Southern Regional Education Board in Atlanta.
Lord said 37 percent of students in Louisiana graduate from four-year colleges and universities compared with a 52 percent average in the region.
This editorial in the Picaynue makes the right argument -- let's not cut education, let's plan for an economy which provides more real jobs.
The state doesn't have too many educated people. Instead, it has a shortage of jobs that will attract and keep college graduates. Fortunately, that's how members of the Louisiana Postsecondary Education Review Commission seem to view the issue.
Recent Census statistics back up that position. Louisiana lost more than 2,500 college graduates between 2007 and 2008, one of only eight states that recorded a net loss of college-educated residents age 25 and older. The brain drain has long been a pattern of economic life in Louisiana, and it's discouraging to see it continuing.
Louisiana does need to meet current labor demands, but the state should focus on those residents who don't have any post-secondary training or education to beef up enrollment at community and technical colleges. Moving people from low-skilled, service-industry jobs into more skilled occupations such as welders and carpenters will help those residents and the economy.