*Education Not Guaranteed: A Louisiana State University Case Study

How would it feel to learn your daughter,
your son, your grandchild…YOUR future was compromised for the financial gain of others? What if the institution that is supposed to
uphold the highest standards of education and intellectual development, instead, took
advantage of its students? It’s 2008, Lehman brothers went bust and brought
the national economy down with it. As government funding for higher education
dwindled, costs were going up for students. And job prospects for recent graduates were
falling. In Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, the state’s newly
elected governor made economic development a top priority. He looked to Digital Media
as a solution. Bobby Jindal: “We are quickly becoming a major
player in this industry, which is creating more high paying and high tech jobs for our
people…” Within a year, Louisiana passed the most aggressive
tax incentive in the country to lure digital media companies to the state. Louisiana’s digital media initiative was intended
to develop the local industry through more than just its tax incentive programs. Nationwide,
higher education was under attack for failing to prepare students to enter 21st century
economies. With its digital media program, however, Louisiana promised to foster relationships
between state universities and companies and invest in workforce development so its students
would be employable for the influx of new jobs in the field. Bobby Jindal: “Today is about creating world-class
facilities for our researchers and our students…to attract and create high paying jobs right
here in our state so more of those students who come through this campus can stay in Louisiana
to pursue their dreams.” In 2009, the feared budget cuts to higher
education arrived at Louisiana State University. Its School of Art launched a new program in
digital media – before it was even approved by the University – and students flocked to
the program. In fact, administrators encouraged them to sign up to the point of over-enrollment. Students soon realized their program was under
staffed, had no classrooms, no equipment, few software programs standard to the industry…and
no signs of funding. With year after year budget cuts to the University,
shortfalls were made up with tuition and fee raises approved by the state. And Digital Art students saw more fees tacked
on by their department that were supposed to be for supplies for their classes. As it turns out, many of these fees imposed
by the department were illegally assessed. Most of these fees did not even go to the
benefit of the students who paid them but were diverted to accounts managed by faculty
in other departments. And worse, some student fees were used to
buy iPads and other electronics for faculty members.
A University stealing money from its students… was just the tip of the iceberg. The biggest loss for the students was the
integrity of their education. It turns out the faculty and administration’s
intent in creating the Digital Art program wasn’t to educate students for all of the
digital media jobs coming to the state. Instead, they saw it as an opportunity to
exploit the state’s digital media funding priorities and protect their own positions. For example, grants purporting to benefit
the new Digital Art Program were written instead to purchase equipment for grad students and
faculty in other departments. The University told told state officials that Digital Art
would suffer if LSU’s budget was cut, however when it’s funds were spared the money retained
was spent to purchase other supplies. Digital Art was also promised much needed new faculty,
but in the recruiting process the funds available for new hires were diverted to enhance the
faculty of other departments. The digital media curriculum was the biggest
charade of all in the carnival of deceits. State officials had begun to undertake a review
process to find programs to cut, consolidate or reform. They were looking for programs
that were low-completers, or in other words that didn’t have enough students. Faculty, who had been growing comfortable
in their tenure, were getting scared. Very few students were choosing classes in
age old media like making ink prints from etchings off an enormous machine. The faculty’s masterstroke, however, was not
to change at all. So old media disguised as new media to protect itself. Trusting students were attracted to digital
media and its job prospects and they believed the promises their program made to prepare
them to enter careers in film and digital video, animation, web or interactive design. The curriculum, however, requires students
to enroll in an exorbitant array of courses that defy the objectives of their degree.
In fact, it includes less Digital Art classes than would be required for a minor and only
about a third of the digital art classes required by the national accrediting board that sets
for standards for degrees in digital media. While they endured course after course in
unrelated topics, Digital Art students were offered only intro level classes in the subject
matter central to their profession. To finesse their disguise, the faculty had
added the word “Digital” to the names of several classes and made them required to obtain the
Digital Art degree. I’d like to think the failures of the Digital
Art degree at LSU to deliver on its promises are an isolated incident. But research shows
students across the country are questioning the value of their education. Everyone’s talking about the higher education
crisis, and proposing reforms like student assessments, graduation rate evaluations,
and budget savers like online courses. People are criticizing the corporatization
of universities and the influence of university partnerships with business. Some are even blaming the students, saying
the current generation doesn’t want to work hard and expects to be spoon fed. But what about the corrupting influences of
economic pressures and defiance to educational reform from within the academic ranks? What
about academic environments where the faculty and administration feel free to indulge their
fears, egos and greed while ignoring their responsibility to their students? What about you?

13 thoughts on “*Education Not Guaranteed: A Louisiana State University Case Study”

  1. Franz. thank you for commenting. Financial and education fraud in for-profit colleges has been a hot topic for a few years and state prosecutors are cracking down. It's time students and the public take a hard look at state-funded schools. We can't assume they are immune to similarly egregious and deceptive practices, as our investigation of Louisiana State University's digital media program shows harm students individually and strength of our economy generally.

  2. I am currently being forced to take a 100 level biology course and I am a civil engineering major. there is absolutely zero connection between the two so why must I be required to take this. The chairman of CE explains to me that it is due to ABET accreditation. I would bet if I gave ABET a call they would say its not required for my degree but just for my particular college.

  3. Hi TheWink17, You bring up a good question. A trend seems to be that more students want college to be as focused on job readiness in their chosen field as possible. What about the role many people cherish of universities providing well rounded education and producing enriched citizens, regardless of career choice? Where does the line fall between general liberal arts and science studies and specific training for specific jobs? Glad to see you engaged in your education enough to question this.

  4. I love buying required reading written by a staff member's friend in NY. I can spare $180 a coupe times a quarter to pay for their doctorate for them. SIKE!

  5. Another way conflicts of interest can cost students. Sometimes it's unavoidable profs know authors of books they require students to purchase. Sometimes it helps students get access to great experiences. However, "help a buddy" mentality can influence more than books: Guest lecturers flown in, themes of workshops or field trips, hiring for instructors…All funded by student dollars. What controls could promote decisions for right reasons and minimize helping out friends on backs of students?

  6. Some instructors have become outdated and bureaucracy is slow. Most students want to be ready for work and think jobs skills equate software mastery. While this is true for entry level positions, many employers want some one who will grow the company. The skills needed for growth are fostered with passionate research of market trends and networking with contemporaries in the students chosen field. Understanding how to read, write very quickly and clearly is valuable to your future promotions.

  7. Digital media students often hyper-focus on software proficiency – a baseline competency for jobs. Mistrust in universities and faculty to know better than students about educational needs is growing. Professor is no longer viewed as "sage on the stage." Higher ed is rapidly consumerizing and de-professionalizing, which heightens customer-is-always-right mentality. To students primarily aspiring for software proficiency, shop online: college is not your most efficient or cost-effective option.

  8. It makes me sad to hear facts such as these. These kids have dreams that are being exploited and crushed.. 🙁 I just read that fifty elementary schools are being shut down in some of the poorest regions in Chicago. Those little ones never even got a chance!!!…..poop. 🙁

  9. Usually the larger universities are the worst, and most egregious offenders. In the large schools, crooked administrators become entrenched and seem to be able to do whatever they want without regard for students. This past year I attended VCU in Richmond, VA and it has to be every bit as bad as the University of Phoenix. The classes consisted mainly of verbatim readings from textbook publisher PowerPoints. There were many attempts to confuse students into taking classes they didn't need.

  10. It may be that in larger institutions administrators have the perception that no one is watching. Job performance reviews are often linked to what their data looks like, and if they can make the numbers look good, then they've done their job. No need to care about whether the education they provide is actually effective as long as the classrooms are full and the students graduate.

  11. You said it having once worked for the Govt University system for quite a long time I've seen some real crime. I've even seen a case where a Prof hired a lover of his to teach I POD class yes that's right IPOD class. The lover then told the class that he would't be teaching them anything and to return to class only on final exam day. Meanwhile the Prof and the new Lecturer boyfriend took a trip to Peru; a tax dollar funded research trip I'm sure.

  12. Higher education is a largely a fraud. Text books cost way too much. Most of what they teach you in university can get for free on the internet. A cost reduced internet based education would be optimal as this video suggested, but the higher education industry will not allow it because they wouldn't make money that way.

  13. Hey I subscribed to your channel. Such a wonderful video. I am asking for your permission for to use this video as a class presentation regarding frauds in university. I will have to edit it and make it short as the presentation has limited time. I will credit you as the reference of course. Please let me know asap. Thanks 

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