BRAC recommends raising bar on TOPS
Today's poll question: Do you think the academic requirements for getting a TOPS scholarship should be raised?
As part of a major reorganization, the LSU Board of Supervisors already has approved changing the university's structure by combining the positions of system president and Baton Rouge campus chancellor. But there's a lot more work to do behind the scenes. A technology task force working with the Transition Advisory Team recommends moving to a "unified enterprise solution" for software used in human resource, financial and student processes. An external consultant estimates the preliminary costs of the new system would be about $8 million for acquisition and $32 million for implementation, with a recurring cost of up to $2 million per year. The investment, says Brian Nichols, LSU's chief information officer, would bring the system out of the "dark ages," but does not include LSU Shreveport and the LSU Health Sciences Center. "We should continue to transform LSU from a University simply tolerating technology to one that truly embraces it to enable research, teaching and learning, the student experience, operational productivity, and our ability to advance the economic development of the state," says the technology group's report to the Transition Advisory Team. The report also recommends considering unifying telephone and email systems, creating a central solution for research data management, and improving network bandwidth for all LSU entities; those possible changes are not included in the $40 million cost estimate. The Board of Supervisors would have to decide whether the initial investments are worth the long-term benefits. You can read the complete technology task force update here. —David Jacobs
A 15.6% increase in goods shipped out of the state during the first quarter placed Louisiana among the top five states in the country for worldwide exporting, according to a new report from the World Trade Center of New Orleans. The overall value of Louisiana's exports totaled $16.5 billion during the first three months of the year, a record for the state during the first quarter. Exports for all 50 states and Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia totaled $383 billion, a less than 1% increase from the first quarter of 2012. Louisiana had the fifth-highest exports in the U.S., up from the seventh-most during the same period last year. The state's exports, however, were down $3.84 billion when compared to the fourth quarter of 2012. Louisiana's principal export markets for the first quarter were China (approximately $2 billion, down 13.5%); Mexico ($1.85 billion, up 29.7%); Singapore ($763.5 million, up 66.8%); as well as Japan, Canada and Egypt. Petroleum and coal products remained the leading exports for Louisiana, totaling $5.78 billion in the quarter, a 21% increase from the first quarter last year, followed by agriculture products and chemicals.
While daily commuters to East Baton Rouge from outside the parish are often considered the cause of snarled traffic on the city's roadways during rush hours, the parish ranks relatively low compared to other highly populated Louisiana parishes and U.S. counties when it comes to the percentage of commuters among its total workforce. According to a new report from Governing magazine, just 29% of the total workforce in East Baton Rouge—76,728 of the total 264,326 workers—is commuting into the parish. That's nowhere near the 45.1% in Orleans Parish, which leads the state for commuters among the workforce. Even Ascension Parish has a higher rate than East Baton Rouge, at 32.9. In neighboring Livingston Parish, about 6,000 of the total workforce of 27,900—or 21.5%—commutes from outside the parish each day. Arlington County, Va., has the highest percentage of commuters in the U.S., at 76.6%, while the District of Columbia has the second-highest percentage (71%) and New York County has the third-highest (69.5%). You can check out the complete report here.
Despite resistance from Gov. Bobby Jindal and other Southern governors to expanding Medicaid, most Louisiana residents support the idea, according to a poll released today. The survey found most people in Southern states, including Louisiana, favor an expansion of Medicaid, an option under the 2010 federal health care law, The (Lafayette) Daily Advertiserreports. But the overall law remains unpopular, with only about one-third of respondents saying they view it favorably. The survey, which included residents of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina, was conducted by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which describes itself as a non-partisan think tank that focuses on issues impacting African-Americans. Sixty-two percent of respondents in the five states support expanding Medicaid, according to the poll. In Louisiana, nearly 63% said they favor expansion. Support was significantly higher among black respondents (85%) than among non-Hispanic whites (53%), the survey showed. You can find more details in the full story here.
CEO pay has been going one direction for the past three years: up. The head of a typical large public company made $9.7 million in 2012, a 6.5% increase from a year earlier that was aided by a rising stock market, according to an analysis by The Associated Press using data from Equilar, an executive pay research firm. CEO pay, which fell two years straight during the Great Recession but rose 24% in 2010 and 6% in 2011, has never been higher. But the numbers don't tell the whole story. After years of pressure from corporate governance activists unhappy about big payouts, many companies have revamped their compensation formulas. They have awarded a bigger chunk of compensation in stock to align pay more closely to performance; they've also become more transparent regarding how compensation decisions are made and in some cases promised to claw back pay from fired executives. Shareholder activists say the changes are a step in the right direction, yet they argue that CEO pay is too high and that there is still too much incentive to focus on short-term results. The highest-paid CEO last year was Leslie Moonves of CBS, who made $60.3 million. He beat the second-place finisher handily: David Zaslav of Discovery Communications, who made $49.9 million. Five of the 10 highest-paid CEOs were from the media and entertainment industry. The full story can be found here.
Holding steady: Chairman Ben Bernanke is telling Congress that the U.S. job market remains weak and that it is too soon for the Federal Reserve to end its extraordinary stimulus programs. In testimony to the Joint Economic Committee, Bernanke notes the economy is growing moderately this year and that unemployment has fallen to a four-year low of 7.5%. But the chairman says higher taxes and deep federal spending cuts are expected to slow economic growth this year. Reducing the Fed's efforts to keep borrowing rates low, he says, would "carry a substantial risk of slowing or ending the economic recovery."
Sun and sand: In a remote stretch of the Omani desert, row after row of long, curved mirrors collect the sun's energy. As The Houston Chronicle reports, similar facilities have been gathering sunlight in the Southern California desert for years, using the focused light to generate electricity. In Oman, however, the facility generates steam. Pipes shunt the steam underground, where it coaxes heavy oil from the rocks. The new solar steam plant is the first of its kind in the Middle East. Learn more about it in the full story here.
Another dimension: NASA can send robots to Mars, no problem. But as The Washington Post reports, if it's ever going to put humans on the Red Planet, it has to figure out how to feed them over the course of a years-long mission. So the space agency is funding research for what could be the ultimate nerd solution: a 3-D printer that creates entrées or desserts at the touch of a button. NASA has selected a Texas firm to develop the printer, which could also be used to feed hungry populations here on Earth. You can find the full story here.