BRCC, CATC merger clears final legislative hurdle

The state House of Representatives on Tuesday overwhelming gave final legislative passage to a bill that would merge Baton Rouge Community College with the campuses that make up the Capital Area Technical College.

Senate Bill 45, sponsored by state Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, is intended to expand classroom offerings to students and save the Louisiana Community and Technical College System money through eliminating duplications.

BRCC Chancellor Andrea Miller said the move will make the newly consolidated institution “more efficient” in its ability to offer more programs to a more diverse student population.

She added that the merger will allow the institution to consolidate administrative functions including financial aid, human resources and admissions offices under a single institution.

“But most importantly, this will make us more in line with the state’s workforce needs,” Miller said immediately after the vote.

The plan is similar to last year’s merger between South Louisiana Community College and Acadiana Technical College.

Mergers of community and technical colleges typically allow technical college students an easier opportunity to take classes in English, math, history and other general education courses.

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

Last month, when the SB45 was making its way through different legislative committees, May explained that state government provided 79 percent of funding for community and technical colleges as recently as four years ago.

Now state government support stands at less than 50 percent, he said.

The merger “is really driven by the business model having changed,” May said.

Should Gov. Bobby Jindal sign the bill, 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 — less than half of the estimated 9,000 students who enrolled in BRCC during the spring semester.

The campuses are in Baton Rouge, Jackson, New Roads and Plaquemine.

Students accepted into the newly merged institution will be subject to a tuition hike, however, current technical college students wouldn’t have to pay the increased tuition until 2016.