Recently Friends of the College sent an information packet to key leaders in the LBC. The packet was designed to share several important pieces of information:
(1) who we are
(2) our purpose
(3) some facts regarding LC
(4) our vision for LC
The packet can be found here (Packet – 20130802). The rest of this post will address and elaborate a bit on the information contained on the page entitled “How Does Louisiana College Compare?”
We’ve posted numerous facts in this blog regarding the situation at LC. All of those facts (and others) are important in assessing the health of an institution of higher learning. This document is designed to focus on a handful of numbers that should be important to any student (or parent) when comparing colleges in order to make the all-important decision of where to spend their next four years.
The metrics that were chosen for comparison were those that were easily verifiable (our sources are listed on the document) and that reflected
(1) the quality of students admitted based on ACT scores
(2) the percentage of students who returned after their freshman year (retention rate)
(3) the undergraduate enrollment growth over the past 5 years
(4) the growth in endowment over the past 5 years
(5) the amount of debt the school has in plant, property, and equipment per student – an indicator of the school’s relative indebtedness
Louisiana College was compared to two groups of schools. The first was a list of SBC schools in the South of a comparable size and focus. The second was all 4-year colleges in the state of Louisiana (with the exception of LSU). We felt that these two groups together provided the best listing of schools that would reasonably be competing with LC for students.
Now, a look at the numbers…
I. Undergraduate enrollment growth over the past 5 years
In this category, Louisiana College performs very well against both groups of comparison schools, ranking in the top 25% of the 4-year schools in Louisiana and in the top half of the SBC comparison schools.
2. ACT scores
ACT and SAT scores are a critical measure of the college-preparedness of the incoming class. Since over 90% of LC’s incoming freshman take the ACT over the SAT, we have focused our research on ACT scores.
The ACT organization publishes guidelines for interpreting a student’s test scores. According to those guidelines, a student scoring below 18 in the English portion of the test or below 22 on the mathematics portion is not ready for college-level courses in those fields and should enroll in a remedial class before enrolling in the “for credit” classes.
In both of these scores, the performance of the students in LC’s freshman class leaves much to be desired. The 25th percentile score (the score that reflects the top of the bottom 25%) on the English portion of the ACT was 16. For the math portion, the 25th percentile score was 17. Both fall below ACT’s guidelines for college preparedness. That means that fully 25% or more of LC’s freshman class is not prepared for either English or math on the college level.
Two questions that arise from this are:
1. How does this compare to LC’s historical scores?
2. How does this compare to the comparison schools?
Historically, LC’s scores have been much higher as shown the table below. It is only since 2006 that scores have regularly dropped to the levels where they are today.
By comparison, the chart below shows average ACT scores in Louisiana since 2008:
When compared to both the SBC schools and the state schools, LC’s scores are inadequate – falling at or near the bottom in both lists.
Retention rates measure the percentage of students who enroll in the fall of their freshman year and who return in the fall of their sophomore year. Retention rates can reflect several factors including the preparedness of the student for college work (possibly not returning because of low grades, although retention rates only include those students who were eligible to return), the satisfaction of the student with the college in general (facilities, classes, faculty, administration, social life), or other outside factors (relocation, change in family status, costs).
LC’s retention rate is 62. That means 38% of the students who enrolled in the fall as freshmen failed to return the following fall. That is the lowest rate of retention (the highest rate of non-return) of all 4-year colleges in the state and in the bottom half of the SBC schools.
Since the state schools have much of their funding supplied by the state of Louisiana, endowment numbers were only compared against the SBC schools.
As of 2005-06, LC’s endowment was $28,063,275. (Source: http://990finderfoundationcenter.org) Since then, LC’s endowment has grown to $29,307,986 at the beginning of the 2010-11 fiscal year, or 4.4%. The endowment at the SBC comparison schools has grown an average of 24.43% in that same period of time. LC’s growth rate places it 12th among the 14 comparison schools. (Union University did not report.) For comparison purposes, the two schools with a lesser increase were Howard Payne, a school with almost exactly the same undergraduate enrollment, with an endowment of over $45 million and Houston Baptist University (approximately 2,000 undergraduates) with an endowment of over $83 million. Of the schools with similar-sized endowments in 2005-06, endowment at Mars Hill College grew 42% and Carson-Newman grew 28%.
If you calculate the average endowment per full-time student, LC does rather well with an average of $28,733, falling in the top half of the comparison schools. However, one has to wonder why the total endowment has been essentially flat over the past five years when comparable schools have seen growth of up to 70%.
If you discount the $5,000,000 given to fund the Caskey School of Divinity, LC’s endowment over the last 5 years is down 12%. We raise this point only because indications are the Cason and Caskey families had pledged to fund the divinity school “to perpetuity.” Those funds may never be realized because of the alleged actions of the current administration. The effect of their actions on future donors is indeterminate.
5. Debt in Plant, Property, and Equipment per full-time student
This metric is a good indicator of indebtedness. LC’s debt per full-time student of $12,851 ranks in the top half (lower is better) among the comparison schools. What is somewhat concerning, though, is the significant increase in mortgages in the recent years. From 2006-07 through 2011-12, mortgage balances increased over 58%, from $10.6 million to $16.9 million, including one year increases of over 33% ($3.4 million) in 2008-09 and over 28% ($3.8 million) in 2011-12. (http://990finder/foundationcenterorg)
Looking at the numbers as a whole, we can only conclude that based on the available measures and the numbers in our earlier posts on Louisiana College By the Numbers (available here and here), we would have a difficult time recommending Louisiana College to a prospective student or their parents.
As Louisiana College alumni who have always been proud of the education we received there, that’s a painful statement to make. There are many professors and staff members at LC who have dedicated many years of their professional life to serving Christ and the college. This is in no way an indictment of those loyal servants. It seems to be more an indicator of a lack of good professional management of the college that seems to have resulted in necessarily lowering admission standards to attract enough students to pay the bills and keep the college somewhat viable. In our opinion, the longer this continues, the worse the problem will become – which brings the discussion full cycle to the reason Friends of the College was formed.
In a future post we will consider what can be done to begin to restore LC as an institution of higher learning, beginning with your involvement. In the meantime, your comments on this post are welcomed and encouraged.
Postscript – Louisiana College’s Response
Before sending the packet, we sent an advance copy of the comparison statistics to Dr. Joe Aguillard and asked for his thoughts and comments. We assured him that if he provided us a response in writing we would include it with our communication. After two weeks we published the report with the following statement.
“Unfortunately, he (Dr. Aguillard) has not provided a response. While we would prefer to include his thoughts, the future of Louisiana College is too important to wait any longer.”