The Market Is Trying To Kill Grambling

Not Republican politicians, not the Klan. The market. As in, black teenagers who don’t want to go to school there.

The Monroe News-Star had a story Friday on Grambling State University’s imminent financial crisis brought on by a $3.7 million budget deficit…

Grambling State University interim President Cynthia Warrick said GSU faces increased faculty teaching loads and furloughs and possible closure of its laboratory schools to overcome a $3.7 million deficit.

Warrick plans to ask the Legislature and governor’s office to come up with a $762,000 shortfall to keep Grambling Laboratory Schools open next fall.

Her deficit plan will be presented to the University of Louisiana System in December for approval.

There is the obligatory screaming about a lack of dollars from the state’s general fund, but it’s pretty clear what the real problem is…

She said the deficit for this year stems from a decline in fall enrollment. A total of 4,504 students are enrolled for the fall semester, down from 11 percent over last year. The decline in tuition revenue is expected to be $3.7 million.

Most disturbing is the decrease in freshman enrollment, she said.

Grambling has 300 fewer freshman compared to last fall.

“That’s a problem we can’t overcome over four years. We can’t make that up. We’ll have 300 less sophomores, 300 less juniors, 300 less seniors. That will carry over four more years,” Warrick said.

“Enrollment has been steadily declining. This is not the first time enrollment has declined, but this is the first time enrollment has declined significantly in the freshman class, and that’s why it is more of a serious situation than we’ve ever had in the past,” Warrick said.

To make up for the decline, next fall GSU will need 1,860 new students.

“That’s what we will need to sustain this institution without a deficit,” Warrick said.

This is, of course, the latest in a long line of stories about the unfolding poor performance across the board at Grambling. Last year there was the player strike involving the football team which refused to get on buses for a road game at Jackson State in a protest of poor facilities, a refusal to provide meals to players and the coaches’ treatment of players. And the school is in a near-constant state of uncertainty as to its accreditation thanks to some questionable financial management.

At some point, public confidence is impacted and Grambling’s target market becomes disinterested in going to school there.

And given that Louisiana is moving toward a higher education funding model that relies more and more on tuition – sometimes supported by the TOPS program – and less and less on appropriations from the state general fund. Which means political power can’t save a bad college like it used to.

Now, it’s the marketplace deciding which colleges thrive and which ones struggle. The politicians, the governor, the fatcats, the Board of Regents…none of them are killing Grambling.

It’s the 17-year olds. They no longer want to go to Grambling, because the school’s reputation has fallen so low as to make it unattractive. It’s more attractive to attend Louisiana Tech, LSU-Shreveport, UL-Monroe or Northwestern State than to attend Grambling, even if you’re African-American. It’s also more attractive to attend one of the nearby community colleges, which do a better job of teaching marketable skills.

So the 17-year olds are choosing to attend other schools.

Grambling can either adapt by getting its act together and fixing what caused the students to avoid it, or Grambling will die. Which is as it should be.

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