Master Plan

Master Plan for Public Postsecondary Education in Louisiana

Article VIII of Louisiana’s Constitution authorizes the Board of Regents (BOR) to develop a master plan for higher education in Louisiana. This Master Plan provides a broad vision for the State’s higher education system and acknowledges its interdependence with the economy and its many contributions toward better lives for Louisiana’s citizenry. The actions outlined in this Plan are guided by the reality that Louisiana must raise the educational attainment of its adult citizens if it is to compete successfully in the 21st-century world economy. The Plan also addresses the need to strategically invest in targeted research to sustain and expand the State’s economic development. Finally, increased accountability is a common thread that undergirds every element of this Master Plan.

To move Louisiana aggressively forward, the Board of Regents has embraced a robust new attainment goal that calls for 60% of all working-age adults (ages 25-64) in Louisiana to hold a degree or high-value credential by 2030. As we stand on the brink of a new decade, this Master Plan, born of the Board of Regents’ unique charge to guide postsecondary education across the state, will set the foundation to increase opportunity.  Our Talent Imperative is to Educate, Innovate, and Collaborate.

Role, Scope and Mission for Institutions

Master Plan for Education (2019) | Year One Review (2020) | Year Two Review (2021) | Year Three Review (2022) | Year Four Review (2023)

Master Plan Data Dashboard Toolkit

Louisiana Prospers: Driving Our Talent Imperative

It is difficult to imagine a more critical component of Louisiana’s success, past, present, and future, than developing the talent of her people. Throughout our history, our colleges and universities have served as the gateway to economic advancement. The core mission of higher education is service: to students, to communities, to the people of the state, to partners in the private sector, and to the world far beyond the borders of Louisiana. The value of the work of colleges and universities is demonstrated every day as students access the tools and opportunities of education and training while the state reaps the economic, social, and cultural benefits of a trained and educated population. A high-quality higher education system develops and retains talent in Louisiana, seeds innovation, grows opportunity and launches us into a high-tech, highly connected future.

President Lyndon Johnson, in his first State of the Union address in 1964, captured the challenge Louisiana faces now: “Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities, in a lack of education and training, in a lack of medical care and housing, in a lack of decent communities in which to live and bring up their children.”

Louisiana’s Talent Imperative is a commitment to our citizens, families, communities, and employers to extend much more widely the benefits of postsecondary education. Data clearly demonstrate the value of higher education. During the period 2010-2014, in the long aftermath of the Great Recession, individuals with postsecondary credentials worked full- and part-time at a rate 10-30 points higher than individuals who stopped out of the education pipeline during or immediately after high school. The impact of higher education on income levels is even more dramatic, with bachelor’s and professional degree holders earning 50-100% more than high school graduates.1

These skilled earners are essential to this virtuous cycle: educated people are more likely to be employed, paying taxes and buying goods and services – supporting the local economy. This ready workforce attracts businesses who need skilled employees, creating a vibrant community and region to sustain this structure. In addition, higher levels of education correlate with a number of social goods: better health outcomes, higher civic participation and lower incarceration rates. By contrast, undereducated citizens directly cost their states and localities more in terms of increased social expenses and lost wages, as well as the significant gaps in contributing human capital that can lift families and strengthen communities.

Louisiana has faced extreme challenges over the past two decades: devastation from weather events, uncertainty around the traditional industrial bases of the state, and severe reductions in state funding. The resilience of the state throughout these events reveals the strength of our communities and the need to help them maximize their potential. Postsecondary education has embraced this need despite hardship and instability, focusing on student success and enrolling and graduating more students than ever before.

To move Louisiana aggressively forward, the Board of Regents has embraced a robust new attainment goal that calls for 60% of all working-age adults (ages 25-64) in Louisiana to hold a degree or high-value credential by 2030. As we stand on the brink of a new decade, this Master Plan, born of the Board of Regents’ unique charge to guide postsecondary education across the state, will set the foundation to increase opportunity. Our Talent Imperative is to Educate, Innovate, and Collaborate.

  • The Mission and Legal Framework for Master Planning

    Our mission is clear: Coordinating the work of campuses, systems, and stakeholders, the Louisiana Board of Regents serves as the state’s leading force for talent development through quality, affordable post-secondary education for all. Though it is a constitutional responsibility, the Board of Regents does not view master planning as an exercise but as an opportunity to set a vision for talent development in our state and a roadmap for how to get there.

    Article VIII, §5 D (4) of the Louisiana Constitution requires the Board of Regents to “formulate and make a timely revision of a master plan for postsecondary education.” In addition, Acts 241 of 1987 and 1360 of 1997 require Regents, in cooperation with each system management board and with the chancellor and president of each institution, to establish a mission for each system, college, and university it serves.  In this way, and through this structure, Regents enacts its role as the state’s coordinating board, advocating for student success and educational quality by setting and enforcing minimum admission criteria within a differentiated system of campuses while driving performance through an outcomes-based funding formula.

    The 2019 Master Plan reaffirms the Board of Regents’ constitutional responsibility to plan, coordinate and provide budgetary oversight for all public postsecondary education in Louisiana.

  • The Challenge

    Statewide, we have a deficiency in the skill levels of our workforce and in the extent to which existing skills are credentialed. Whether those credentials are measured in awarded degrees from higher education institutions or in certificates evidencing job-specific training and competency, the fact remains that only 44.2% of our working-age population has a degree or a certificate, well below the national average of 47.6%. Our challenge is to augment the credentials of the state’s workforce, increasing the percentage of higher education attainment. This corresponds to higher incomes for the workforce and greater productivity for their employers.

    Louisiana’s economic future is inextricably linked to its talent pipeline. In fact, 96% of Louisiana’s workforce is comprised of Louisiana residents who must be prepared for an evolving economy. By 2020, the Georgetown Center projections indicate that 65% of jobs nationally, and 56% of jobs in Louisiana, will require education beyond a high school diploma. It is estimated that 85%  of jobs that will be available in 2030 have not yet been created or even imagined. This atmosphere of uncertainty and dynamic change provides a mandate for urgent and informed action by those who develop talent in our state.

    The Board of Regents, along with the state’s higher education leaders, recognizes the significant work yet to be done. Louisiana continues to struggle with high poverty, low educational attainment, uneven access to higher education, and a need for increased and diverse high-wage employment opportunities. When it comes to talent development, ours is a three-fold challenge:

    • expand access to and success in completing postsecondary education,
    • eliminate persistent and damaging equity gaps, and
    • significantly increase the education level of adults.

    Success will position Louisiana as a leader in innovation, opportunity, and talent.

    Statewide, we have a deficiency in the skill levels of our workforce and in the extent to which existing skills are credentialed. Whether those credentials are measured in awarded degrees from higher education institutions or in certificates evidencing job-specific training and competency, the fact remains that only 44.2% of our working-age population has a degree or a certificate, well below the national average of 47.6%. Our challenge is to augment the credentials of the state’s workforce, increasing the percentage of higher education attainment. This corresponds to higher incomes for the workforce and greater productivity for their employers.

    Expanding access and student success requires improvement in the traditional education pipeline and an expansion of it as well. Our current education system has too many leaks – we are losing students who never graduate high school, never enroll in college or, when they do, do not persist or complete. Of 100 incoming 9th graders, 78 will graduate high school. Of these, 45 will enter college immediately after graduation, and a meager 18 will earn a postsecondary credential within 150% of the standard time of completion: three years for an associate’s degree; six years for a baccalaureate degree. These numbers must improve.

    Erasing equity gaps is also critical to our success. In Louisiana, white students are significantly more likely than African Americans to complete a postsecondary credential: in 2017, 20.6% of the white student population who attended college earned credentials, compared with 15.8% of the African American student population. In fact, according to Education Trust, Louisiana has the lowest degree attainment rate – 20.7% – for African American adults of the 41 states included in their latest State of Higher Education Equity report. Pipeline leakage for African American students is significantly worse than for the state as a whole: of 100 African American 9th graders, 73 will graduate high school, 40 will enter college immediately, and only 9 will complete within 150% of standard time to degree. This gap represents a major loss of potential.

    Finally, 47% of working-age Louisianians, approximately 1.15 million, hold a high school diploma or less as their highest level of education. That means nearly half of the state’s working-age population is at risk of not meeting the demands of the 21st-century workforce.

    This could result in them being unemployed or underemployed and in need of new educational opportunities to advance and thrive. Despite the high percentage who left education before college, currently, only 4.5% of adults 25-49 without a baccalaureate are enrolled in a postsecondary institution, the second-lowest percentage in the nation. Serving our returning adults effectively and affordably in order to enable them to receive a first or follow-up credential must be a priority for our state.

    Collectively, these data show that in Louisiana, postsecondary education is being successfully delivered to too few and unevenly, leaving entire segments behind. Getting these populations to and through college will begin to maximize the tremendous potential in the state.

  • Leveraging Progress Since 2001

    The Board of Regents’ 2001 Master Plan was a watershed in Louisiana, changing the structure of higher education throughout the state. The 2001 Plan embraced the core idea that postsecondary education should be available to all and set out to establish a framework to make that happen.

    The plan embedded the Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS), created by the Constitutional Amendment in 1997, into the existing structure of higher education. The effect was to provide more opportunity for students from diverse backgrounds and with differing levels of academic preparation to identify and select the higher education path most likely to help them accomplish their goals. The Regents,  in collaboration with two- and four-year systems, developed statewide articulation and transfer practices, linking different levels of undergraduate programs across campus types and smoothing students’ paths through higher education. Prior to the creation of LCTCS, there were only a handful of public two-year institutions in Louisiana, leaving many four-year campuses to fulfill both two-year and four-year functions. With the development and expansion of open-admission two-year campuses, Louisiana had, for the first time, an opportunity to move to selective admissions at public four-year campuses without cutting off access for large student populations.

    Minimum admission standards – including a required college-preparatory curriculum, a minimum high school Grade Point Average (GPA), and either a prescribed minimum score on the ACT Test or a minimum high school GPA on the Regents’ Core or a prescribed minimum high school class rank – were established at appropriate levels for three categories of institutions: flagship, statewide, and regional. While Regents set minimum standards in 2001 for implementation in 2005, management boards, campus administration, and faculty were encouraged to consider implementing more stringent standards where appropriate.

    The almost twenty-year experience since the implementation of the 2001 Master Plan provides a good vantage point from which to examine its impacts on the state, its postsecondary education system, and individual students.

  • An Ambitious Goal: Double the Numbers

    Reaching an educational attainment level of 60% will require Louisiana to more than double the number of annual credential recipients, from approximately 40,000 in 2018 to 85,000 by 2030. The status quo over recent years has yielded annual growth in credentials hovering around one percent. If our current trend continues, attainment in Louisiana will be at approximately 48% by  2030, far short of our 60% goal and the talent needs of our state. That means continuing to offer postsecondary opportunities ‘the way we always have’ or relying on demographic changes to ‘fix’ the problem will not be sufficient.

    To double the numbers by 2030 requires that we expand our thinking about talent and the tools by which talent is developed. It will demand that Louisiana postsecondary education and its partners try new approaches, disrupt the status quo, implement new strategies for all potential student populations, enable all students to participate, and emphasize the re-engagement of working-age adults.

    Public and private postsecondary institutions must lead this work through a unified and collaborative statewide effort. Currently, Louisiana’s public postsecondary campuses annually produce approximately 77% of credentials conferred, with the remaining 23% produced by private institutions. To maximize paths for students to pursue and earn meaningful credentials, both sectors must engage to remove existing barriers to success and increase completers. PK-12 and business and industry are critical partners, representing the preparation and outcomes ends of the pipeline, with postsecondary education as the gateway between them.

    Students, regardless of family income, age, race, or place, must succeed at levels significantly higher than projections based on current trends to achieve the 60% attainment goal. And the goal is broader than simply reaching the percentage; it also encompasses achieving the right mix of credentials – high-value certificates, undergraduate degrees, and graduate degrees – to meet Louisiana’s needs.

    Within these significant increases in attainment, we must sharply focus on achieving equity. The attainment goal, which requires producing 45,000 more credentials in 2030 than were produced in 2017, is predicated on significant growth in credentials across all student populations. Producing the result for white residents requires a minimal growth of 4% over projections of credential production based on current trend. Increases for African American residents must be more ambitious, with 23% more credentials needed than current trends indicate will be produced. Reaching our goal, therefore, requires deep attention to achieving equity – engaging underserved populations, understanding barriers, and implementing strategies that increase access and success.

    The significance of this work is evident: reaching our 60% attainment goal, and ensuring all populations are included in this growth, will yield profound benefits to the state and our citizens. According to National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS), based on 2015 data, getting to the goal in 2030 will lead to an extra $5,414 in cumulative personal income per capita and yield a significant increase in state revenues over the fifteen-year timeframe. This includes an estimated additional $794.8 million in income taxes, $535.1 million in sales taxes, and $611.3 million in property taxes, as well as further savings projections of $1.26 billion in Medicaid costs and $206.2 million in corrections costs. The state, then, is projected to see more than $3.4 billion in new revenues and cost savings by 2030 as a direct result of a more and better-educated population.

  • Expanding Our Vision of Talent

    Reaching our talent development goal requires that we expand the pool of talent to be developed. A strong PK-12 to college pipeline alone will not get us there. The work must prioritize all potential student populations – elementary and secondary students, working adults, and adults out of the workforce in order to create a lifelong Prosperity Pipeline. Without this pipeline serving Louisiana’s citizens, our state will continue to miss opportunities for better livelihoods and stronger communities.

    Given existing low attainment levels, the state must prioritize the education and training of our large adult population who currently have some or no college. Bringing them into postsecondary education and to a credential of value will improve their individual lives and boost standards of living across the state.

    Louisiana’s incarcerated population, currently the second-highest in the nation at 1,052 per 100,000 residents, is another critical group to draw into postsecondary education. This is consistent with national and state emphases on prison reform, driven by the knowledge that approximately 84.8% of this population in Louisiana will return to live in our communities. Preparing these individuals for life after incarceration – releasing them with training, skills, and opportunities – decreases the chance of recidivism, raises their earning potential, and sets them on a positive path for the future, all while decreasing the state’s levels of investment in incarceration.

    Other populations needing additional support to meet their full potential include foster youth, people aged 18-24 not working or in school (opportunity youth), and working residents of any age who are seeking additional skills. All should find encouragement and support to earn the credentials needed to realize their ambitions.

    Our Talent Imperative includes a relentless commitment to today’s students – the traditional secondary-to-postsecondary, first-in-family, working parents in need of training/retraining, adults in rural communities, returning veterans, and the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated. Our goal is to provide renewed hope and a vision for their future. For Louisiana, promoting postsecondary success across all population sectors is foundational, increasing our ability to attract and grow 21st-century business and industry and developing the talent to fuel our economy.

Getting to the Goal: Educate

To meet the ambitious levels projected in this Master Plan, current systems of educational delivery and workforce preparation must change. Reaching the goal of 60% attainment and building a brighter future for the state and its people requires us to accelerate talent development aggressively through the identification of new pathways, leaving incremental change behind. In short, we must embrace solutions at the scale of the problem.

  • Focus on Investment and Affordability

    Postsecondary education is fundamentally an investment with extensive long-term benefits to individuals and communities, not an expenditure without return. Strategic funding, with resources carefully aligned to well-defined priorities, benchmarks, and outcomes, is the bedrock of success for the whole endeavor. When the costs of access to and success in higher education are borne by the student, many citizens, particularly those populations we most need to reach, find higher education credentials – and the related benefits, from increasing personal opportunity to building workforce-relevant skills to growing more affluent communities – are impossible for them. Though over the last decade, Louisiana’s postsecondary education system has sustained the second-highest disinvestment by the public sector in the country, it is clear that moving forward, stakeholders across all sectors must work collectively to support strategic investments, establish an innovative funding model, and remove some of the burden from the students.

    Only by reinvestment from all sources can we create a postsecondary structure that is focused on providing all Louisianians with a chance to succeed in college, boost their earning potential, live better lives, and be the backbone of a high-tech, 21st-century economy. Failure to invest will come at a significant cost, further entrenching existing inequities and placing students at an impossible crossroads: work to live in the present or pursue a better future. And the cost will not just be to students; private employers will continue to struggle to find enough qualified workers, the state will continue to operate at a disadvantage in recruiting new businesses and diversifying our economy, and we will continue to see ourselves in the bottom tier of the states in opportunity and quality of life. We have been near the bottom for too long and have too much to offer; we deserve to maximize our talent to rank where we belong.

  • Incentivizing Success: Outcomes-Based Funding

    The Louisiana Talent Imperative will continue to direct state dollars toward developing the talent we value and need. The Board of Regents currently uses an outcomes-based funding formula to target state funding toward improving student success. While the funding formula’s overall distribution is a combination of the prior-year funding base, course delivery costs, and outcomes, a significant emphasis is placed on success in Louisiana’s higher education priorities. The metrics driving the formula support the role, scope, and mission of each institution, while the formula as a whole incentivizes performance as measured by student progression and completion, workforce development, and research innovation. Additionally, the formula rewards the completion of low-income students, adults 25 and older, and underrepresented minorities. A new Master Plan signals an opportunity to affirm, modify, and update the funding formula and metrics as needed to ensure it properly incentivizes the goals and values of the Master Plan, including equity, innovation, and student success.

  • Make Pathways Attainable by Making Them Affordable

    The Louisiana Talent Imperative commits to greater college affordability, particularly for low- and moderate-income Louisianians. Postsecondary credentials are necessary for getting and keeping a good job, and cost should not prevent talented individuals from accessing them. Even as this link between credential and opportunity has intensified, the cost to the student has skyrocketed as institutions have relied more heavily on student-paid tuition and fees rather than public support.

    The figure below illustrates recent trends in higher education funding in Louisiana, showing a near-inversion in levels of state funding and tuition and fees even as total dollars remained flat. This indicates that in less than a decade, the funding burden has shifted from approximately 70% state-funded/30% student-funded to 70% student-funded/30% state-funded.

    The shift of the financial burden to students certainly affects access, as more students, and a high proportion in traditionally underserved populations, cannot afford to attend college. It also can affect success, as students drop out of programs early and without the intended outcome due to a lack of resources. The effects of this shift are exacerbated in Louisiana, where one in five individuals lives below the poverty line.

    According to the Southern Regional Education Board’s (SREB’s) Affordability Study, a family earning less than $30,000 annually – 28% of all families in Louisiana – would spend 18% of its income just to afford tuition (exclusive of fees) at lower-cost public institutions. Louisiana’s merit-based scholarship support, through the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS), is generous at $1,601 per FTE student, which is almost four times the SREB average – while the state’s need-based aid program, at $161 per FTE student, is less than half the SREB average. The effect of this is to keep postsecondary education out of reach for too many Louisiana residents who could most benefit.

    Tuition and fees are not the sole impediment to earning a credential.  Non-academic factors, including food and housing insecurity, childcare, health care, transportation, and work responsibilities, can exponentially increase risks to completion.

    A broader approach to affordability is critical to reaching our ambitious attainment goal. For traditional undergraduate students – those moving directly from graduation to college – more rigorous high school courses will lead more students to merit-based TOPS awards and stretch TOPS dollars further. While this is needed, it is not sufficient; the Prosperity Pipeline must expand beyond the high school-to-college bridge. Given the high rates of poverty and economic challenges to Louisiana families, the state must demonstrate a stronger commitment by prioritizing Louisiana’s need-based aid program, GO Grants. In addition, Louisiana must develop an effective affordability strategy to support returning adults who have earned a regular or alternative high school diploma and are pursuing credentials in high-demand areas. An adult financial aid program for non-traditional adult students piloted by the Louisiana Community and Technical College System is showing promising early results. We will use findings from this pilot, as well as results from other states’ adult aid initiatives, to improve and expand programs to support returning adults.

    The Louisiana Talent Imperative recognizes that education costs students in both money and time. Ensuring access to and promoting the positive impact of a variety of time-saving approaches to educational success – early credit accumulation in high school, innovative stackable and short-term credentials, and improved time to degree – will help to reduce college costs.

    Ancillary costs of higher education, in particular the substantial costs of textbooks, pose a significant barrier for many of our students. The average student spends approximately $1,200 on textbooks over the course of a year.  Cutting these costs through expanded adoption of Open Educational Resources (OER) is a proven strategy, already yielding an estimated student savings impact of $6.14M.31 New investments provided by Regents allow the Louisiana Library Network (LOUIS) to provide more resources to support student savings and further expand OER course development using the state’s OER Commons repository. The OER Commons will allow 260 transferable courses to be aligned to existing OER textbooks and resources, streamlining the course redesign process.

    Finally, increasing the Prosperity Pipeline requires that we leverage all sources of support for students, including public benefits, to increase the social mobility of our people. All federal resources provided to individuals, such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), should be braided into a system to increase credential attainment and support students in need. Workforce Innovation and Opportunity  Act (WIOA) Individualized Career Services, providing recipients with continuous assessments and identification of barriers to success, would complement, build on, and support educational pathways work, helping students to capitalize on opportunities for training, as well as support local labor market needs. Similarly, state programs such as workforce training and health care can also remove some of the barriers to pursuing and completing a credential. Collectively with improved coordination and alignment, these investments of public dollars can accelerate the number of people on a productive path over the longer term saving the public sector millions of dollars.

    By building a more accessible higher education system, in terms of time, money, and clear roadmaps to success, postsecondary education in Louisiana will be able to engage and serve more students and families. The result will be a better-educated population for Louisiana, leading to a higher quality of life, expanded opportunity, more social mobility, and stronger communities.

Getting to the Goal: Innovate

The Louisiana Talent Imperative recognizes the centrality of innovation to catalyze and drive the talent development system our state needs. Building innovation ecosystems throughout the state to allow creative ideas to be shared, advanced, and brought into use, is critical to establishing a Prosperity Pipeline. Innovation in this context encompasses three essential components: new and novel approaches to the way education is delivered, methods to measure the success of educational strategies and adapt them based on performance, and continuing to embrace the power and reach of research universities and special purpose institutions in advancing knowledge and new ideas. Building the Prosperity Pipeline to engage all of the state’s talent requires that Louisiana transition from a siloed, linear approach to education to one that creatively blurs the boundaries between PK-12, postsecondary education and business and industry. Therefore, work-based learning must become an integral part of the state’s talent development system. A continuum  of experiential learning, apprenticeships, job shadowing, internships, and cooperative education from middle to high schools blends worksite and classroom learning, helping students connect theory to practice, and in particular allowing students to learn by doing. Innovative curricula and education delivery models that weave together learning and work – immersion programs, near-completion specializations, education programs integrated into the work environment – can also help students to understand the relationship of learning to work and being fully prepared to enter the workforce. Finally, in addition to the practical benefits of the experience, if this blended education allows the student to earn postsecondary credits, it can accelerate both time-to-degree and post-graduation wages.

Louisiana’s Talent Imperative demands the state expand apprenticeships in high-need fields like information technology, cybersecurity, health care, and advanced manufacturing. Linking education and work explicitly will not only help students in connecting the relevance of their education to employment, it will also forge stronger and more meaningful partnerships between PK-12, postsecondary education, and Louisiana’s private sector.

Higher education must also recognize that beyond students’ technical knowledge and abilities, employers are increasingly seeking soft skills – interpersonal relations, communication, judgment, and ethical problem-solving – that must be part of any curriculum. The IBM Institute for Business Value’s Global Skills Study noted that the technology of work is changing so fast that executives are now more focused on the  soft skills of job candidates: a willingness to be flexible, agile, and adaptable to change. Curricula and foundational courses should deliberately prepare students for this aspect of employment, to make them as competitive as possible in the rapidly evolving technology-centered workforce.

  • New Education Delivery Models

    Our Louisiana Talent  Commitment is anchored in the understanding that all learning counts. Thousands of Louisiana’s citizens are returning to higher education campuses annually, bringing with them knowledge and skills gained in the workplace. These developed talents, along with prior college experience and knowledge, should be systematically included in credential pathways. Census data indicate that there are in excess of one-half million adults in our state who have attended college but left without a credential; many of these adults, though, continued to gain skills after leaving through their jobs and other life events.44 In many cases, these adults could leverage their informal learning in the classroom to complete their progress to a credential. In addition to this pool of adults who could bring their experience back to college, there are 271,000 who never finished high school and almost 100,000 ‘opportunity youth’ (ages 16- 24, not enrolled in school or working) who could benefit as well.45,46

    We must evolve our system from seeing the diploma as a proxy for learning to a competency-based approach. This would allow students to advance in the Prosperity Pipeline based on mastery of skills, regardless of the environment in which they learn those skills. Students are then liberated from a schedule of knowledge transfer and fixed benchmarks to measure progress, and to move at their own pace through the competencies needed in the area of study. Focusing on skill development rather than seat time will help students master course content and allow for the student’s competence to be demonstrated and documented. This approach is fully consistent with the evolving economy, which places a premium on demonstrated skills, self-motivation, and critical ability.

    A well-defined Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) system is a critical tool for measuring the opportunities for these returning adults; institutions in Louisiana currently deploy a variety of PLA practices with uneven effectiveness. Advancing a statewide PLA policy that covers all public campuses and ensures that credits awarded through PLA are treated equally with other credits in transfer policies is an important step. This will raise efficiency for campuses, reduce uncertainty for students, and make the system more predictable and transparent.

    The rapid development of educational technologies has also enabled a myriad of new formats and types of learning experiences, extending from massive open online courses (MOOCs) that enroll thousands but provide little or no student support to fully personalized models of teaching and learning. Through the Board’s eLearning Task Force, educational innovation of all kinds is supported across institutions, allowing faculty, administrators, and others to discover effective techniques for different learning styles and student populations. Continued, accelerated support of leading faculty innovators can build on this success to improve student outcomes and cultivate new opportunities for student access and learning.

  • Methods to Measure Success

    To build a strong understanding of what strategies work and how they boost student attainment, the Louisiana Talent Imperative will engage education researchers, seeding analysis of both trends and outcomes. Careful analysis will show how initiatives are working and shape our approaches to better achieve the intended results. Research will also help us to understand how to invest to maximize results: what kinds of interventions work, what resources are needed to optimize their impact, methods to expand pilot or experimental approaches, and ways to balance the different needs of different populations within a shared goal. Investing in understanding our approaches will allow constituencies to share best practices and build on activities that are proven, rapidly, and efficiently spreading effective innovation.

    In fact, we are already implementing federal research findings with 35,000 students in 68 schools within 18 districts. The Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance (LOSFA) is using a combination of state and federal funding to implement these findings, and it is seeing improved outcomes as a result of outreach efforts aimed at building a college-going culture in economically disadvantaged low-performing public middle and high schools with high percentages of potential first-generation college students.

    Schools that participate in state-funded LOSFA Field Outreach Services are more likely to experience increased rates of FAFSA completion, high school graduation, and college enrollment. Students who are supported through both state and federally-funded academic support services, such as tutoring/course credit recovery, dual enrollment, and/or Advanced Placement, are increasing in successful course completion, decreasing in the number of those who require remediation, and/or successfully earning college credit while in high school. Students supported through the federally funded priority model (district-wide middle through high school approach) are becoming eligible and ultimately receiving TOPS awards at a greater rate than those in public schools outside the priority model.

  • The Power of Research Universities

    Higher education is the incubator of innovation in the United States as university faculty and students, supported by public and private investment, pursue knowledge in order to advance our understanding, abilities, and growth. Innovation functions as an ecosystem, bringing together, in symbiotic relationships, different types of approaches to research and an array of stakeholders, from researchers to technology transfer professionals to end users or licensors.

    Higher education is typically where the basic knowledge underpinning innovation is discovered, and universities are increasingly involved in every stage of development. Beyond basic knowledge, postsecondary institutions partner with businesses and industry to facilitate the movement of innovation into society and the market.

    The universities’ role in the innovation ecosystem is both broad and critically important. It must include all of the following components: basic research, applied research, and translation and commercialization. In addition, the research environment should embed training, providing opportunities for students at all levels to see, experience, and engage with the processes of knowledge discovery and understanding. These components are complementary and co- dependent, each needing the others to continue the cycle of invention.

    In addition to the broad goals of building knowledge and understanding and contributing to the economy, research universities are essential contributors to the quality of life in the places in which they are located. Research universities practice “stewardship of place,” focusing efforts on resolving issues that affect their communities. In Louisiana, for example, significant statewide research partnerships investigate diseases that disproportionately affect our citizens – heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and infectious diseases – threats to our environment, uses of our natural resources, and new technologies that can serve as platforms for our growing economy. The purpose of university research is not to create knowledge for its own sake but to serve its environment and transform lives through the knowledge and innovation it generates; campuses begin that work in their own communities. Our Talent Imperative requires that our institutions improve not only the education but also the health, well-being, and social mobility of our citizens.

    For more than 30 years, the Board of Regents, through the BoR Support Fund (BoRSF) as well as statewide federal grants, has seeded these activities and made significant progress in growing both federal research funding and industry partnerships. During the years of BoR operation of BoRSF and federal programs, more than $255 million in state monies have been distributed to the campuses, leveraging more than $1 billion in federal and private monies.44 Much BoRSF investment, moreover, has been focused on projects directly studying and benefitting our region and the state.

    Per National Science Foundation (NSF) data, annual higher education research expenditures in Louisiana from all sources have grown from $154 million in 2001 to more than $683 million in 2016, a more than fourfold increase. Essential to securing and continuing this trend is identifying ways to maintain and grow research infrastructure, ensuring that all participants – faculty, students, industry partners, and others – have access to cutting-edge tools and services necessary to a healthy and productive research environment. The tremendous assets in Louisiana – both a strong research infrastructure across numerous critical areas of study (advanced manufacturing, computer technology, cybersecurity, energy, and health sciences) and a set of research issues of critical regional importance – will be the launchpad for our next generation of research and technology development.

Getting to the Goal: Collaborate

For postsecondary education to grow as this Master Plan envisions – and as the state urgently needs – stakeholders across all sectors must embrace the vision for the future and pull together strategically to move it forward. We must be inclusive and intentional in building partnerships but also clear that everyone is actively engaged in the work. Collaboration based in mutual commitments shared by a broad spectrum of stakeholders will be essential for tapping the state’s unmet potential. This approach requires that we expand our efforts to deepen productive partnerships with state and federal agencies and non-profit groups, as well as across the private sector both regionally and statewide. These partnerships cannot run on parallels or come together on an occasional or ad hoc basis but will be deliberate, formal, and fully unified. We must pull as a single team to produce a generational change for Louisiana.

In the highly integrated culture of the 21st century, relationships across all sectors involved in postsecondary education and workforce development will be the critical driver of opportunity. The role of the Board of Regents in establishing, maintaining, and growing these partnerships is clear: we must serve as conveners and liaisons, facilitate, advocate, track prospects for collaborative efforts, and act as the statewide voice for work that must be done together.

In 2018, the Governor created the Workforce and Education Subcabinet as a formal collaborative effort to bring together a cross-section of agencies committed to talent development – economic development, workforce, child and family services, health, corrections, juvenile justice, and housing joined PK-12 and higher education. The focus is on cross-agency policy work specifically designed to improve Louisiana’s progressively skilled workforce through alignment with education and credential accumulation. The subcabinet represents a promising opportunity to leverage resources and develop policy and practice to improve educational attainment and workforce readiness. Maintaining and growing these partnerships on behalf of higher education on a state level will be essential to improve our success in reaching the shared populations we serve and in aligning campus and program priorities with Louisiana’s economic and community needs, present and future.

The Louisiana Talent Imperative builds on an already-extensive PK-12 partnership. To develop our talent from within the state and provide more opportunities for Louisiana’s residents, we must maintain strong links at all points of the education pipeline and work to expand college into high school. The likelihood of success for students in higher education is clearly rooted in the preparation they receive in PK-12 and aided by early exposure to college. This partnership has already yielded results in the alignment of academic expectations and preparation, a mutual focus on dual enrollment, teacher preparation, and more. We must continue to advance a shared vision for equity in opportunity and academic success

Higher education across the country has recognized the need to act as a liaison between the student population – people in search of personal and professional growth and new opportunities – and business and industry – the source of high-skill, high-wage jobs in Louisiana. Aligning program offerings and curricula with market needs is critical to building the classroom-to-work pipeline and positioning today’s students for tomorrow’s job opportunities. While postsecondary education has increasingly pursued deep partnerships with business and industry, they have grown up largely in response to – rather than ahead of – demand. Relationships must be developed more proactively and deliberately to ensure the depth and nimbleness necessary to adjust to new needs and possibilities for Louisiana’s workforce. Maintaining and building these networks of innovation will increase Louisiana’s capacity for research and development at the highest level, helping position the state as a hub for industry-based innovation, in turn bringing more and better opportunities to our state.

Through such intentional, long-term collaborations, employers can advocate for the importance of higher education, provide student internships and projects, and inform and support academic programs designed to accelerate the development of needed skills. Institutions can partner with employers to develop work-based learning opportunities that may be credentialed, develop competency-based learning models that allow students to receive credit for and build on what they already know, and integrate internships, project-based learning, and other experiential learning into the curriculum and program design. When done correctly, these partnerships form the basis for long-term investment and mutual support between public and private sector stakeholders.