By Dyer, Scott
Diverse Issues in Higher Education , Vol. 24, No. 20
BATON ROUGE, LA.
When he's sworn into office in January, 36-year-old Bobby Jindal will become the youngest governor in the United States.
But the Republican congressman's tender age is not turning heads as much as his ethnicity. Both of Jindal's parents immigrated to Louisiana from India shortly before he was born, and he will become the first Indian-American governor in U.S. history.
In the Oct. 20 election, Jindal outpaced the field of gubernatorial hopefuls by winning 54 percent of the votes cast, with a campaign that promised to stomp out corruption and incompetence in state government. But he won with 63 percent of the White vote, and captured just 10 percent of the Black vote, according to political analyst Greg Rigamer, who has developed a computer system to track election turnout.
Despite his low numbers among Black voters, Jindal is pledging to give every citizen of Louisiana equal access to state government and is eager to earn their trust by raising the ethical standards for legislators and others in Louisiana state government.
While getting the state Legislature to pass an ethics reform bill is his first order of business, Jindal also has some ideas about improving higher education in Louisiana. He wants to stem high school dropouts by aggressively steering students into dual enrollment, dual-track programs that allow them to earn college credit.
He says the community and technical college system in Louisiana--one of the last states in the nation to create one in 1999--is severely underutilized.
"In California, 80 percent of their kids start in a community college or technical school. The Southern average is 50 percent, but Louisiana's only at between 20 to 25 percent," Jindal says. "We've got some of the fastest-growing community and technical colleges in the nation, but we need to do even more to encourage that growth."
Jindal earned two bachelor's degrees with honors from Brown University and a master's from Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar.
He was elected to the U.S. Congress in 2005 representing the first district (the western suburbs of New Orleans and part of the city), following an unsuccessful gubernatorial bid in 2003. His extensive experience in state government includes a stint as secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals and president of the University of Louisiana System. …