Overall, while 49 percent of Louisianans feel that state colleges are excellent to good at meeting workforce needs, sentiment trends toward the feeling that state colleges could be offering more varied types of education.
“Since we began the Louisiana Survey in 2002, state residents have consistently given state colleges and universities positive ratings. This year is no exception. Residents give state universities strong marks for meeting state workforce needs,” said PPRL Director Kirby Goidel. “Even so, they want colleges and universities to remain affordable and show great reluctance for reducing the amount of money available through TOPS.”
State colleges received the most positive evaluations in Southwest Louisiana (where 56 percent of respondents rated them as excellent or good) and New Orleans (52 percent) and the Northshore (51 percent). They receive the lowest marks in Baton Rouge (41 percent) and North Louisiana (44 percent).
Too Many Colleges, Not Enough Technical Schools?
Louisiana’s system of higher education has been criticized at times for having too many four-year colleges and universities and not enough technical and community colleges. To gauge public sentiment, the survey asked respondents if they agreed or disagreed whether either of these statements was true. Sixty-eight percent of respondents reject the idea that the state has too many four-year colleges, while 63 percent agree that it doesn’t have enough community and technical colleges. However, regional differences in respondents shed some light on the numbers. For example, 34 percent of respondents in Southwest Louisiana agree there are too many four-year colleges compared to 16 percent in New Orleans and 18 percent in North Louisiana. Similarly, 74 percent of New Orleans-area residents agree that there are not enough community and technical colleges compared to 54 percent in the Northshore and surrounding parishes and 56 percent in North Louisiana.
Sentiments on TOPS
Respondents were also asked about TOPS. In last year’s 2011 survey, there was little support for reducing the total award but majority support for increasing the academic requirements necessary to qualify (58 percent) and providing financial awards based on need (55 percent).
This year’s survey showed even stronger opposition to reforming TOPS. Nearly identical margins opposed reducing the total amount of the award (75 percent), while fewer respondents supported increasing the academic requirements to receive an award. Specifically, support for increasing the academic requirements fell from 58 percent last year to 49 percent this year. Respondents were also not supportive of providing a flat monetary award, 43 percent supported providing a flat monetary award, and 46 percent were opposed.
Interestingly, college educated and wealthier respondents tended to be less supportive of reducing the total amount students receive.
Eighty-two percent of college educated respondents opposed reducing the total amount of the award compared to 63 percent of respondents with less than a high school education.
Similarly, 84 percent of respondents earning a household income of $75,000 or more opposed reducing the amount compared to 68 percent of respondents earning $30,000 or less.
Finally, in a separate question, when given the choice between allowing state colleges to increase tuition to offset budget cuts or limiting tuition increases to assure colleges and universities remain affordable, respondents overwhelming selected the latter. Eighty-five percent of respondents favored limiting tuition increases to assure colleges and universities remain affordable, while 12 percent favored allowing colleges and universities to raise tuition and 3 percent were unsure or did not know. Opposition to tuition increases is consistent across regions and individual characteristics.
About the Survey
The annual Louisiana Survey, sponsored by LSU’s Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs, was created to serve as a barometer of statewide public opinion. The 2012 Louisiana Survey results will be broken out into several sections in order to best disseminate its findings, and will be released throughout March and April 2012.
The overall survey includes 731 randomly selected respondents, including 517 landline telephone respondents and 214 cell phone respondents. The survey was conducted from Feb. 7 to Feb. 29 and has margin of error of +/- 3.6 percentage points. Final results are weighted to reflect the most current population estimates available. A detailed copy of the results described in this release and a discussion of the methodology can be obtained at www.survey.lsu.edu.