College merger clears first hurdle

The state Senate Education Committee on Wednesday advanced a bill that would merge Baton Rouge Community College with 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.

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

Under the legislation, Capital Area Technical College’s five campuses in the Baton Rouge area would be consolidated under BRCC.

Community and technical college administrators said the move would allow the system to consolidate financial aid, human resources and admissions offices under a single institution.

It would also give technical college students an easier opportunity to take classes in English, math, history and other general education courses.

New technical college students enrolling in a newly merged institution will be subject to increased tuition.

Current technical college students won’t have to pay the increased tuition until 2016.

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

LCTCS President Joe May said the merger is necessary to reconcile the cost discrepancies inherent in offering a technical curriculum to students.

“In higher education, a lot of times, you don’t make money the same place where you spend money,” May said.

He said it takes 16 students studying English to pay for one nursing student.

The disparity wasn’t too much of a problem in years past, May said, when state general funds made up more than 60 percent of a school’s operating budget.

But now, with tuition making up the bulk of an institution’s budget, May said, the merger is necessary to pay for high-cost programs.