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Baton Rouge community welcomes F. King Alexander at Breakfast to Business

LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander spoke to local business leaders about the landscape of higher education across the country and his vision for LSU during the July Breakfast to Business, hosted by LSU Executive Education.

F. King AlexanderLSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander spoke to local business leaders about the landscape of higher education across the country and his vision for LSU during the July Breakfast to Business
Jim Zietz/University Relations

Alexander's talk, "Looking Beyond My First 30 Days," touched on a number of topics of importance locally and across the country including higher education funding, student indebtedness and the benefits of finishing college.

Alexander said that it is an important time in the history of higher education in America.

"I don't think we've faced the challenges that we're facing both in federal and the state level," he said.

With the final Transition Advisory Team meeting having taken place on July 22, Alexander gave the group an update on the LSU2015 process and all the work that has been done in the past few months by members of the team, sub-committees and task force groups.

Alexander discussed the important populations of students that haven't been previously served to have their higher education needs met. These include veterans, those who haven't had access to higher education before, and the 50 percent of students who dropped out across the country.

"Higher education is needed by everybody in some form or some capacity," he said.

Alexander said the Transition Advisory Team's report comes on the heels of the National Academies' report on "Research Universities and the Future of America." This report highlights four areas of challenges for higher education:

  • Federal funding for university research has been unstable and declining at a time when other countries have increased funding for research and development
F. King AlexanderDuring his talk, “Looking Beyond My First 30 Days,” Alexander said that the rate of return on an LSU degree is one of the best in the United States.
Jim Zietz/University Relations
  • State funding for higher education has been cut further in the recent recession

  • Business and industry have largely dismantled the large corporate laboratories that drove American industrial leadership in the 20th century, but have not yet fully partnered with research universities

  • Research universities need to be responsive to stakeholders by improving management, productivity and cost efficiency in both administration and academics.

With college cost, efficiencies and student indebtedness being the top issues for higher education in Washington, Alexander said there is great concern at the federal level regarding to the future of research universities. However, he noted that LSU has positioned itself well with the new emphasis on productivity outcomes.

"The good news is college has never been needed more than it is today," Alexander said.

Performance measures and productivity standards are areas that LSU has done well, and Alexander said LSU could base future strategies on producing graduates in higher demand fields and STEM fields and other areas receiving funding at the federal level.

Alexander outlined ways that LSU has been successful and is already ahead of many peer institutions in performance measures.

"I'm pleased to say that LSU is not the cause of the college cost debate, efficiency debate, net cost debate," Alexander said. "We're not the cause of the college cost crisis, not the cause of student indebtedness crisis."

F. King AlexanderBreakfast to Business provides timely, practical information and solutions regarding current business topics that affect the Baton Rouge community from a local, regional and national perspective.
Jim Zietz/University Relations

Regarding student indebtedness, LSU students graduating with debt is at about half of the national average and the debt incurred also falls at half the national average. Couple that with the fact that LSU's graduation rate is higher than it's ever been, and Alexander said that LSU has protected its students well.

"The rate of return on an LSU degree is one of the best in the United States," Alexander said and he wants Washington to take notice of the good things that have been happening at LSU.

"We're asking Washington to pay attention to these data to show who's really committed to keeping affordable higher education opportunities available, to keeping students out of debt and for remaining committed to large numbers of underrepresented populations that need higher education more today than they've ever needed it in the history of higher education," he said.

According to Alexander, mid-career earnings of an LSU graduate age 42-45 ranked 33rd out of 167 public research universities, which is ahead of the University of Alabama, University of Florida and University of Wisconsin, among others.

"That's a real tribute to what has gone on here with the faculty and staff and what our students are learning," Alexander said. "I really don't know of a better measure or a better scoreboard than to see that type of scoreboard."

Alexander did note that college is not simply about earnings, but the part that is often overlooked is what comes along with earnings. Earnings and higher education attainment brings along numerous private and social benefits to everyone in society including lower unemployment, lower poverty rates, better health care, a better environment, more consumer spending, more leisure time, and better career satisfaction.

F. King AlexanderBreakfast to Business closed with a question and answer session from the audience on a number of topics including the student loan debate, funding sources for LSU and alumni support.
Jim Zietz/University Relations

"All those other social benefits that we don't talk about enough, that we don't give enough attention to … all are accruing in graduates of LSU," Alexander said. "LSU has a lot to be proud of. We need to make sure everybody knows about it. We need to make sure everybody knows that they are also beneficiaries of each and every graduate that graduates from this institution."

Alexander said that throughout Louisiana the dialogue on higher education needs to be changed. He still hears from people who say that not everybody needs to go to college.

"We have to raise the expectations of educational attainment throughout ever parish and school in the state," Alexander said. "We must raise the expectations that every child can succeed and that every child has access to some form of higher education and can succeed in this state."

Breakfast to Business closed with a question and answer session from the audience on a number of topics including the student loan debate, funding sources for LSU and alumni support.

Breakfast to Business is a bi-monthly program presented by LSU Executive Education, which is housed in the LSU Stephenson Entrepreneurship Institute. The aim of the program is to provide timely, practical information and solutions regarding current business topics that affect the Baton Rouge community from a local, regional and national perspective. For more information, contact LSU Executive Education Director Robin Kistler at rkistler@lsu.edu or 225-578-1190.