As the regular session of the 2013 Louisiana legislature adjourned June 6, higher education was once again left without the legislation and funding it critically needs.
The state allocated $1.64 billion to fund higher education in the 2007-2008 fiscal year. The amount proposed by Governor Bobby Jindal for the upcoming fiscal year was $284.5 million. For our universities to continue succeeding, our legislature has to fix the flaws in state law and appropriations and invest in our state’s future.
When universities come up short with state funding they are often forced to eliminate positions ranging from professors to maintenance crews, to offer fewer classes, to combine or eliminate programs and to pass the financial burden over to the students through tuition hikes.
For years students have asked for a freeze on tuition increases, and they may soon get their wish. But the cost may be greater than they realize.
Though all public colleges and universities are governed by the Board of Regents, it still requires a two-thirds vote from the legislature to increase tuition or fees.
According to a May 22 Associated Press article, Louisiana is the only state that still has this requirement.
“Several legislators also have said they see no net benefit in raising tuition rates if Jindal and lawmakers are going to then shrink state financing for colleges,” according to the article.
So where will the money come from? Many in-state students rely on Taylor Opportunity Program for Students funds to cover the increasing tuition, but not many realize that money may soon become harder to come by.
TOPS is part of the vicious cycle. When our legislature cuts higher education funding, our universities raise tuition. As tuition increases, the amount paid by TOPS also increases. The state ends up footing the bill in a way that is much less beneficial to our universities.
House Bill 87 fell short of final passage in May. This bill would have sent to the voters the question of legislative control over tuition. House Bill 194, which would have handed tuition control over to the boards of supervisors for each system in Louisiana, was pulled shortly after due to lack of support.
Certain bills, strengthening the legislature’s grasp on our campuses, however, did pass.
Senate Bill 36 requires each university to adopt a smoke-free policy for its campus.
House Bill 6 makes it legal for off-duty police officers to carry firearms or dangerous weapons onto college campuses.
SB 36 and HB 6 were intended to invest in our state’s future by improving health and safety, but the serious problems in our future right now are not the possibility of second-hand smoke or the off-chance an off-duty police officer with a gun on campus will save a life.
The serious problems right now are sustaining our future.
Without investing in the future, we will be stuck in a vicious cycle of a low-income state. Put your money and your votes where it matters, Baton Rouge. Invest in higher education.