LSU and many other public colleges in Louisiana might be forced to file for financial exigency, essentially academic bankruptcy, if state higher education funding doesn’t soon take a turn for the better.

Louisiana’s flagship university began putting together the paperwork for declaring financial exigency this week when the Legislature appeared to make little progress on finding a state budget solution, according to F. King Alexander, president and chancellor of LSU.

“We don’t say that to scare people,” he said. “Basically, it is how we are going to survive.”

Being in a state of financial exigency means a university’s funding situation is so difficult that the viability of the entire institution is threatened. The status makes it easier for public colleges to shut down programs and lay off tenured faculty, but it also tarnishes the school’s reputation, making it harder to recruit faculty and students.

Lawmakers have yet to move any revenue-raising measures — either a tax hike or tax credit rollback — during the session. A Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to take up an inventory tax repeal Wednesday afternoon (April 22) that would produce additional revenue for the state, though passage is far from certain.

I’ve been wondering whether the University of California is headed in a similar direction. Starving higher education of money (or allowing the siphoning of university funds to football stadiums and executive salaries, effectively starving the general budget) may be the long-desired key to dismantling tenure, not to mention higher education as we’ve known it.

At least sitting here in Berkeley, it’s not clear who’s going to stand up and prevent that from happening. So far the whittling away of real education service within the university has happened without much protest.

Read: LSU drafting ‘academic bankruptcy’ plan in response to state budget crisis |