How Does Louisiana College Compare?

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.

Year 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
English 21 21 20 18 15 16 15 16 16 16
Math 18 18 18 17 16 16 16 17 17 17

(Source: http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/datacenter)

By comparison, the chart below shows average ACT scores in Louisiana since 2008:

Year 2008 2009 2010 2011
English 20.5 20.3 20.1 20.4
Math 19.7 19.6 19.6 19.7

(Source: http://www.act.org.newsroom.data/2012/pdf/profile/Louisiana.pdf)

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.

3. Retention
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.

4. Endowment
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)

Summary
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.”

Louisiana College By the Numbers – Part 2

In a previous post, we discussed the infographic “More Than Just a Number” that Louisiana College published on its Facebook page and raised some questions regarding what the numbers really say about the school and the quality of education that it provides.

In this post I want to look at some numbers, percentages, etc. that, in my opinion, are much more revealing with regard to LC’s current situation. The source for most of the data (the few exceptions being numbers that well-documented elsewhere or are generally known to be true) are included at the bottom of the post. I won’t spend much time elaborating on what the numbers mean. I think they speak for themselves. However, I would encourage your thoughts and feedback.

First, some numbers…

1 – The total number of music-related graduates in 2011-12. (1)
2 – The number of consecutive years LC has been on warning status from its accrediting agency.
3 – The number of Theology and Religious Vocations graduates in 2011-12. (2)
4 -The number of Vice-Presidents for Academic Affairs in the past 8 years. Compare this to 5 in the previous 35 years.
53 – LC’s ranking (out of 81) among Regional Colleges in the South. (3)
87 – The number of library volumes per full-time student. (2) The average for the bottom one-third of liberal arts colleges in the U.S. is 226. (4) This number puts LC towards the bottom of the bottom third.

Now some percentages…

4.4% - The growth in endowment over the past five years. The average for comparable SBC schools in the South is 24.43%. (2)
25% – The percentage of freshman who are required to take remedial math and English courses based on their ACT scores. (2)
31% – The percentage of entering freshmen who will graduate within 6 years. (1)
38% – The percentage of freshmen who do not return to LC for their sophomore year – the highest rate of non-return in the state of Louisiana. (1)
52% – The percentage of all 2011-12 graduates who were from the Nursing or MAT programs. (1)
72% – The percentage of undergraduate programs with 2 or fewer graduates in 2011-12. (1)

Finally, some really big numbers…

$2.7 million – The amount of money that was spent on remediation of the law school building in Shreveport. (Louisiana College 990 for 2011-12) The building is now for sale and the school has yet to enroll its first student. Here is the link to the Law School from the Louisiana College website.
$50 million – The amount of repairs that are needed for LC’s physical plant due to years of neglect.
$55 million – The amount of money that LC is reported to have lost due to perceived mismanagement of the endowment for the Caskey School of Divinity.

LC got it right when they titled their infographic “More Than Just a Number”. A college education is about more than just the numbers, but you can’t ignore the numbers either. When you look at the bigger picture – numbers plus intangibles (which was really what the infographic was all about) – Louisiana College is severely lacking. As Friends of the College, it is our hope and our prayer that by revealing these shortcomings that the current administration is either hiding or ignoring, we can collectively bring sufficient light to the situation. We need Louisiana Baptists and other friends to step forward, join with us, and encourage the LBC to make the appropriate decisions necessary to save LC and to help her once again retain her place as the outstanding Christian college in Louisiana and one of the top Christian schools in the South.

Sources:
(1) http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?id=159568#programs
(2) http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/datacenter
(3) http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/rankings/regional-colleges-south/data
(4) http://crl.acrl.org/content/68/4/343.full.pdf

Louisiana College By the Numbers – Part 1

The infographic below was recently published on the Louisiana College Facebook page. It’s an interesting graphic that is worthy of further examination.

20130703-201928.jpg

Let’s look at these numbers to see what they say about the school.

  • 12th most conservative college
  • 81 acre campus with a total of 25 academic and residential buildings
  • 80+ fields of study
  • 96% of Nursing graduates find employment prior to graduation from LC. All students have job offers prior to graduation.
  • 1:13 student teacher ratio
  • Library holds 135,000 volumes
  • 95% of Pre-law students were accepted to law schools over the past five years.
  • Top 75 Best Regional Colleges
  • $4 million in financial aid and private scholarships
  • 100% of Education program completers taking the Praxis passed all parts of the exam in the last two years.
  • The first thing that jumps out at me is that it’s not clear what many of these numbers have to do with the quality of education provided. Certainly the size of the campus, the number of buildings, the number of fields of study, and the amount of financial aid available aren’t indicative of the educational quality.

    You can make a case that the Nursing statistic is indicative of a quality nursing program – and I would agree. However, nurses are in great demand so I would expect any nursing program to have a similar rate. The law school admission rate could be impressive if we knew the number of pre-law students who applied and what law schools they were admitted to. Unfortunately that information was not provided. Similarly, the Education program statistic sounds impressive, but how much “meat” is behind that number? These are not graduates, they are “completers”. What is the national (or even the state) pass rate? Isn’t passing the exam expected from the graduates?

    “Top 75 Best Regional Colleges” sounds impressive, but out of how many? Is this a national or regional rating? Who did the ratings?

    The ratio of students to teachers is good and is indicative of the ability to get solid one-on-one attention from the faculty. That’s been one of LC’s selling points for many years. However, there is nothing that speaks to the academic quality of the faculty. How many hold terminal degrees in their field? That’s an important number that the accreditation agencies look at – and so should prospective students.

    That leaves us with “12th most conservative college” – a nice sounding term but what does it mean? Conservative socially? theologically? politically? Given the recent theological issues, one would naturally interpret that as “theologically conservative.” A little Google searching found this link to a survey by Newsweek, The Daily Beat, and College Prowler. Here’s what the site says about the methodology employed in the study.

    To figure out if the majority of students would consider themselves to be right of the political center, Newsweek and The Daily Beast partnered with College Prowler to analyze data on the percentage of students who deemed their campus “conservative” or “very conservative,” as well as students’ rating for the political diversity on campus. The percentage of “very conservative” was given double weight, and the diversity score was used as a tie-breaking metric for schools with student bodies of matching conservative leanings.

    Louisiana College was ranked 12th in the survey, falling between #11 Harding University and #13 Brigham Young University. The text associated with LC is as follows.

    Very Conservative Student Population: 36%
    Conservative Student Population: 43%
    Political Diversity on Campus: 3 (out of 10)

    As it turns out, this is a indicator of political leaning and political diversity and has nothing to do with theology. Further, the ranking was determined by a random survey of students and is related to how the students viewed their campus and the political diversity there. Certainly no one is surprised that the campus is viewed as “very conservative” given the recent issues regarding Calvinism, etc. The lack of political diversity is not a surprise either since LC is a Louisiana Baptist college and Louisiana Baptists typically view themselves as conservative.

    All of this is neither good nor bad. It simply reflects the current reality at the school. Given the current direction of the country, I would personally opt for a school that leaned more towards conservative than liberal politically. My point is that it doesn’t say much about the quality of the education received.

    In my next post we will look at some other numbers that more accurately reflect the current state of affairs at LC from both an educational and financial perspective.