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State Legislature backs higher ed

May 9, 2013

 

REBECCA ALVAREZ
Associate Managing Editor

 

The fight to revitalize the quality of higher education in Louisiana seems to have picked up steam as legislation to increase tuition moves past the State House of Representatives.

 

Two bills recently presented to the House aim to exempt legislature approval of tuition increases and give complete control over tuition rates to higher education management boards.

 

House Bill 87 would strike the provision that requires two-thirds of the Legislature to approve a university’s tuition increase. The bill passed through the House without any opposition.

 

THOMAS

House Bill 194 would give higher education management boards the authority to raise tuition to meet the regional average. The bill would also allow 10 percent of the revenue from these increases to be used to help students with financial needs.

 

Joseph Thomas, vice president for finance and administration, said higher education in the state would benefit greatly from the legislation if it were to be put into effect.

 

“Tuition has become an integral part of the revenue in higher education,” he said. “That money would benefit class offerings, facility management and allow for a highly skilled faculty.”

 

If tuition is put in the hands of the management boards, the higher education systems in Louisiana would be able to meet the tuition average for the southern region, providing more funding for programs and facilities. Louisiana is currently one of three states where the legislature holds authority over tuition increases, and it is the only state that requires a two-thirds vote to do so.

 

“Putting management boards in charge of tuition makes more sense,” he said. “They are very much in tune with campuses and would always act in the best interests of the universities.”

 

JINDAL

Since Gov. Bobby Jindal was elected, 30 percent of the state funding for higher education has been cut from the state budget, resulting in a spike in tuition increases. According to an article in The Advocate, (Baton Rouge), in 2008, state dollars

made up 60 percent of funds for higher education. Five years later, the roles have switched with tuition making up 60 percent of funds for higher education.

 

Despite tuition increases, however, cuts that continue to be made in faculty and financial aid programs have proven such actions have hardly helped revenue for many universities.

 

Thomas said HB194 would help solve the issue of providing financial aid to those who need by reserving 10 percent of revenue for financial aid.

 

“The intent of the bill is to ensure students with the greatest need have additional support,” he said.

 

Though it seems the bills would benefit universities throughout the state, gaining public support will still be essential for them to be passed — which may be difficult given the combination of the terms of the legislation and the struggling economy — but many people, like Pheobe Thomas, a senior French and Spanish major, believe increasing tuition is inevitable and necessary.

 

Louisiana has the second-lowest tuition in the South, and while the news may sound good to students, the low cost raises many concerns for the quality of post-secondary education.

 

Most of the revenue from tuition increases made under the current conditions has been used to offset cuts in state support, leaving few funds to put toward the factors essential to advancing the quality of education.

 

“Everybody freaks out when they hear tuition is increasing, but everything gets more expensive,” Pheobe Thomas said. “If you want the best you have to pay to get it.”

 

Email comments to rha014@latech.edu.


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