Fannin addresses higher education

November 10, 2010

by Haley Kraemer, Staff Reporter

Rep. Jim Fannin said he would not leave a college campus without addressing higher education during a speech Nov. 4 at the Financial Marketing Association meeting.

Fannin, a Tech alumnus, currently serves as the Democratic Chairman of the Appropriations Committee of the Louisiana House of Representatives.

Stephen Walker, president of FMA and a graduate student in business, said FMA features a different financial speaker once per month as part of the FMA speaker series. 

He said during his childhood he knew Fannin, who ran a store near his home in Jonesboro.

 “My very first economic lesson came from Mr. Jim Fannin as a child,” he said.

Fannin covered many aspects on the issue of higher education.

 He said higher education and health care are taking the biggest budget cuts, and the reason is because they cost the most money.

“There are constitutional protections for pre-K through 12th grade,” Fannin said. “Higher education does not have a constitutional protection as great as that one.”

He said this is because the protection is based on attendance. Students in pre-K through 12th grade have a 100 percent attendance rate, but there has not been a time when more than 25 percent of college-age students have attended college.

He also said the TOPS program was implemented to raise the percentage points of enrolled college students in order to receive more state funding due to a higher graduation rate. 

“We are funding higher education with plenty of dollars,” Fannin said. “We are just spreading it too thin amongst the many state universities.”

He said he appropriates the block grant, but the Board of Regents determines how the money is split up between universities by benefitting the schools with a higher graduation rate. 

Fannin said the TOPS program was implemented to increase the graduation rates which are key in determining university budgets.

Rachel Waggoner, a senior economics major and secretary of FMA, made a suggestion regarding the TOPS program.

“The program was supposed to pay for itself as students graduate, get jobs and pay taxes in Louisiana,” she said. “Then, the money will go back into the program and the graduation level will increase because students will be able to finish school without dropping out for financial reasons.”

Waggoner said one problem involves graduates leaving the state seeking employment elsewhere, which keeps the money from circulating back into the TOPS program.

“A disincentive or penalty would be a good idea to encourage them to graduate with a degree at Louisiana Tech University and find a job in Louisiana,” she said.

However, she also said the problem is oftentimes jobs are unavailable in Louisiana.

Fannin said an increase in admission requirements helped solve the student drop-out problem.

“There is certainly a merit to that,” he said. “Some people get TOPS and only go one year.” 

Fannin said the legislature has tried to pass a law requiring TOPS students to pay off their TOPS scholarship if they drop out after one year, but there has never been enough interest to pass this bill because the student received one year of college that they would not have received otherwise.

He said financial decisions are more complicated than the general public thinks.

 Fannin said, “Time can be an ally when making a financial decision.”

E-mail comments to hek002@latech.edu.