In the past five years, Louisiana has cut the money it spends on higher education.

Most political observers are well aware of this sad state of affairs.

But even many of those observers might be surprised to learn the extent of our neglect of tomorrow’s leaders.

Since 2012, Louisiana’s spending on its colleges and universities has decreased by 11.5 percent.

Only Oklahoma — where spending has gone down 18 percent in the same time — has seen a sharper drop.

Oklahoma might keep up from being first on this dubious list. But the fact that one state is even worse than we are at paying for higher education will be little consolation as we continue to see the fallout from this terrible trend.

The impact won’t be seen overnight. But it will be seen.

As we spend less and less on universities, more of our brightest young minds will look to other states to further their educations.

They will continue to see services suffer in Louisiana as every college campus is forced to absorb hit after hit from state decision-makers.

And the sad fact is that we didn’t start five years ago at the top of the educational heap.

At a time when we should have been spending more to build up what had and catch up or surpass other states, we went in the other direction and further depleted a vital public service.

Losing tomorrow’s teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers and business people to other states for college will make it that much more difficult to get them to return to pursue their professional goals after they graduate.

Just as it may take years to see the impacts of our neglect of education, it will likely take even longer to reverse the trend —if we ever begin that process.

Education is too important to leave it battling for scraps after nearly every other area of the state’s budget has been finalized. But that is essentially what our state constitution forces our lawmakers and governor to do.

Because so many other areas of the budget are constitutionally protected, health care and higher education are two of the only places where cuts can be made — even when cuts are desperately needed.

In times of financial difficulty, the kinds we have experienced in recent years, health care and higher education fall to the wayside.

This has been a troubling state of affairs for some time. Perhaps yet another ranking detailing exactly how much harm we are doing to education will further highlight an urgent shortcoming and spur our officials to action.

 

Editorials represent the opinion of the newspaper, not of any individual.