Senate panel backs merger

Advocate staff photo by ADAM LAU -- Joe May, president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, spoke Thursday supporting Senate Bill 45, which would merge the five Capital Area Technical College campuses with Baton Rouge Community College. SB45 sponsor, state Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, is seated at left.
Advocate staff photo by ADAM LAU -- Joe May, president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, spoke Thursday supporting Senate Bill 45, which would merge the five Capital Area Technical College campuses with Baton Rouge Community College. SB45 sponsor, state Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, is seated at left.

Legislation that would merge Baton Rouge Community College and the five campuses that make up Capital Area Technical College zipped through a state Senate committee Thursday.

“I don’t see any questions,” state Sen. Jack Donahue said after listening to the presentation of Senate Bill 45 sponsored by state Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge.

Donahue, R-Mandeville, chairs the Senate Finance Committee that heard the bill.

Joe May, president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, said afterward that the merger is necessary because of shrinking state funding.

He said state government provided 79 percent of funding four years ago. Now state government’s support stands at less than 50 percent, he said.

“This was really driven by the business model having changed,” May said.

Under the legislation, Capital Area Technical College’s five campuses in the Baton Rouge area would be consolidated under BRCC. Enrollment at the affected technical college campuses is 4,000 compared with 9,000 at BRCC. The campuses are in Baton Rouge, Jackson, New Roads and Plaquemine.

Tuition and fees for one semester at Capital Area Technical College, or CATC, is about $965. Tuition and fees for one semester at BRCC costs $1,545.

Students who enroll in the newly merged institution will be subject to increased tuition. Current technical college students won’t have to pay the increased tuition until 2016.

The Legislative Fiscal Office estimates the legislation would generate $6.8 million over five years. BRCC plans to use the increased revenue to tackle maintenance projects on the CATC campuses.

“You guys, I’m sure, want to talk about the fiscal note,” Dorsey-Colomb told the committee.

Instead, the committee advanced the bill without any questions.

May said afterward that the merger also will provide greater opportunities for students to transfer to four-year universities. He said restructuring will be done to combine business, human resources and other offices, leading to likely job eliminations. May said he expects people will retire or find other jobs.