LSU fee bill advances, other tuition bills linger
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Saying a majority of Louisiana’s colleges and universities won’t reach the graduation rates of the Southern regional average by 2016, the House Education Committee chairman angrily killed his own tuition increase bill on Wednesday.
The proposal by Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, would have authorized a one-time tuition increase in 2016 to the regional average if the schools met the graduation rates of its peer institutions.
Carter had touted the measure as an “incentive to get universities to improve performance,” and he scathingly rattled off current graduation rates he said were woefully inadequate.
The Southern Regional Education Board’s average graduation rate is 54 percent, while Louisiana’s average is 26.3 percent, Carter said. Only LSU, with a graduation rate of 60.6 percent, exceeds the average.
“That’s sad. That’s sick!” Carter said “This bill is no good. Even in three years they cannot do it. I will park this bill and return it to the calendar.”
The maneuver doesn’t end the tuition debate, however.
A separate proposal by Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, which seeks to shift tuition increasing power from state lawmakers to the state’s four college management boards, is still pending action on the House floor.
Leger, who delayed action on the bill Wednesday, said he is looking to have it discussed next week.
“I think this bill is better than Rep. Carter’s because it gets us out of the business of setting tuition,” Leger said. “We should not be micromanaging.”
Leger said Louisiana is the only state that requires a two-thirds vote by the Legislature before schools can increase student tuition and fees. He said that power should be given to the management boards that oversee the schools and that make the budgets.
Higher education leaders have been pushing tuition increases as a way to fill some of the gaps by budget cuts that have stripped $650 million in state financing from public colleges since 2008, according to data from the Board of Regents.
But many lawmakers have said they want to see improved performance before boosting costs further on students.
That raises questions about the fate of a bill advanced Wednesday by the House Education Committee that would increase fees at LSU to pay for building maintenance and upkeep.
Starting this fall, LSU students could see a $60 a year fee increase that could top out at $300 a year by the fall of 2017, under the proposal by Rep. Franklin Foil, R-Baton Rouge.
The student fees would be used for maintenance projects on the campus. For the Baton Rouge campus that fee could generate up to $4 million a year, Foil said.
LSU officials said many of the buildings on campus are more than 50 years old and are in dire need of renovations.
The bill also would allow the assessing of a $300 per year dental supply fee and a $275 per academic year prosthetic device fee for students in the LSU dental surgery program. In addition, the proposal would allow a $2,500 fee for a new digital media graduate program.
With a 9-3 vote, the committee sent the measure to the House floor for debate.