Community and technical college students statewide likely will see a tuition increase this fall as higher education leaders look to boost revenue and patch their shrinking share of state funding.
The Board of Supervisors at Louisiana Community and Technical Colleges on Wednesday approved an across-the-board 10 percent tuition increase at their 16 campuses, including the five technical college campuses in the Baton Rouge area.
However, some question arose during the morning meeting whether Baton Rouge Community College would be eligible to raise its tuition the full 10 percent allowed under state statutes, or just 4 percent. A Louisiana resident taking 12 credits hours at BRCC pays $1,056 in tuition per semester, plus fees.
BRCC student government recently approved a $144 fee for full-time students to fund the school’s intercollegiate basketball and baseball programs.
LCTCS System President Joe May said Wednesday morning that the state originally determined that BRCC’s athletic fee put students’ financial burden at too close to the Southern regional average, and therefore at odds with the state guidelines governing tuition hikes.
But State Commissioner of Higher Education Jim Purcell disputed the tuition discrepancy Wednesday afternoon in an email.
“Athletic fees are a part of the tuition and fee analysis ...” Purcell wrote. “Inclusive of the athletic fee, BRCC would still be allowed 10 percent.”
May said Wednesday afternoon that he had not heard anything definitive from the Louisiana Board of Regents, the state’s top higher education board.
“The last information we had, BRCC was eligible for a 4 percent increase,” May said. “My understanding is that the regents are re-running the calculation. The feedback I’m getting is that we will end up being able to raise tuition 10 percent for everybody.”
The difference between a 10 percent and a 4 percent tuition hike, could end up as moot.
Louisiana’s colleges, most of which lost roughly $360 million in state funding from budget cuts during the past four years, have to meet their GRAD Act goals before they can raise tuition.
The 2010 LA GRAD Act is made up of 52 different benchmarks based predominantly on student success including improved graduation and retention rates. The law allows colleges to increase tuition by up to 10 percent a year, if they meet those performance goals. Additionally, the state’s performance-based funding formula ties 15 percent of overall state funding for each college on meeting the GRAD Act goals.
May said he expects all of the LCTCS campuses to hit their GRAD Act targets this year.
The regents are expected to make that determination on the tuition increases for all Louisiana colleges at their June 27 meeting.
LCTCS board member Robert Brown, of New Orleans, said the expected tuition increases are “painful but necessary.”
The system is expecting to see a nearly $21 million decrease in state funding between this fiscal year and the fiscal year that starts in June, according to a Board of Regents compilation.
BRCC is expected to take a $1.5 million hit.
“It’s a burden, which nobody can escape,” Brown said. “The cost of doing business continues to rise, so by necessity students are asked to bear a larger portion of the tab. It’s my hope the education we are providing to these students is worth the money they have to pay.”
According to LCTCS figures, tuition and fees currently make up 55 percent of the state’s community college annual revenue with the state picking up the difference.
Technical college students bear slightly less of a burden, contributing 45 percent of the annual revenue to their schools.
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