E.D. White Lectures Address Higher Education Funding and The Case of Louisiana


This year’s E.D. White Lectures, jointly sponsored by the Law Center and the LSU Department of Political Science, featured nationally-noted scholar of higher education, Professor Michael McLendon of Vanderbilt University. 

McLendon, Associate Professor of Higher Education and Public Policy, and Associate Dean and Chief of Staff of Peabody [Education] College at Vanderbilt, also directs the Program in Higher Education Leadership and Policy and the Master’s of Public Policy (MPP) program. He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in state politics and policy, organization and governance of higher education, and leadership.

McLendon spoke on Mission, Markets & States: Developments Reshaping American Public Higher Education and Crisis of Opportunity: Louisiana Higher Education in a Time of Fiscal Distress in his two lectures. McLendon addressed the national context for the changing environment of higher education and the specific issues confronting Louisiana’s system of public higher education in an era of financial challenges.

“The state Board of Regents, Louisiana’s “coordinating board” for higher education, should have the authority “to carve out what will clearly be the missions of individual campuses and systems,” then leave it to the campuses and systems to figure out how to fulfill their missions,” said McLendon. He emphasized there might be good reasons, beyond politics, for some of the apparent duplication at Louisiana universities, but says he can’t find those reasons in the documents and information he has reviewed

In his research, Professor McLendon studies the relationship between state socio-political systems and policy adoption for higher education. His recent work has focused on the factors influencing tuition and public financing levels in higher education and state adoption of new performance-based accountability mandates and governance reforms.

“The research work in which I am engaged seeks to shed light on how the design of state systems influences policy for higher education,” says McLendon. “The 50 American states provide a superb laboratory for studying policy design. Understanding more fully how and why states make the decisions they do has important implications for reforming governance and finance of higher education in the United States.”

His research builds both on several large state-level datasets that he has constructed, and on data he collects from interviews with legislators, higher education officials, and other policy leaders in the states.