More than 40,000 Baton Rouge college students can expect to see a 10 percent increase in their tuition when they return to campus later this year.
The state’s top higher education board Wednesday paved the way for all but two of Louisiana’s public colleges to raise tuition when classes resume in the fall.
Only LSU at Eunice and Southern University at Shreveport did not meet the standards spelled out in the 2010 LA Grad Act which ties student performance to tuition-raising authority.
The 10 percent tuition incease is all but certain at area schools including LSU’s Baton Rouge campus, Baton Rouge Community College, the Capital Area Technical College and Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond as management boards for the LSU, University of Louisiana and Louisiana Community and Technical College systems have already voted to approve increases for the fall semester.
Southern System President Ronald Mason said he will recommend Southern follow suit at their board meeting scheduled for Friday morning.
The GRAD Act consists of up to 62 benchmarks mostly based on student success. The law gives colleges authority 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.
The only caveat for institutions is that they do not exceed Southern regional averages for tuition charged.
All of Louisiana’s public colleges, excluding the two that didn’t pass, were given “green” designations — the highest evaluation score possible on the state’s four-tiered scoring system.
Colleges signed six-year GRAD Act agreements in 2010 which set school-specific targets annually and over the long term.
All of the state’s public colleges reached their targets last year, said Meg Casper, the Regents association commissioner for public affairs.
The GRAD Act has generally been talked about as one of the only tools institutions have to mitigate declining support from the state.
The Louisiana Legislature has cut roughly $360 million from higher education in the past four years. Additionally, Louisiana’s four college systems will have to absorb another $66 million in the fiscal year that starts Sunday.
But at Southern, meeting the GRAD Act targets was especially high-stakes Chancellor James Llorens has said.
Declining enrollment and state budget cuts prompted Southern to declare a financial emergency, called exigency, last year. Exigency allows administrators to more easily cut personnel and programs.
The school is facing an estimated $6 million cut from the state next year.
On Wednesday, Llorens said reaching their targets, and the benefits that go along with them, will boost Southern’s ability to balance its budget.
“This was a challenge for us, given our financial and enrollment problems,” Llorens said. We took the benchmarks very seriously.”
LSU’s Baton Rouge campus is looking at an expected $18 million reduction in state funding starting in July.
Chancellor Michael Martin said he was “feeling good” after the Regents meeting but cautioned that LSU will not be able to absorb budget reductions for much longer.
“Today is indicative of the fact that people will rise to the occasion because they love the institution even under trying times,” Martin said. “Continuing to succeed will be difficult, though. I hope no one believes we can continue if we have to deal with further budget cuts.”
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