La. colleges low on cost

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The University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Baton Rouge Community College and Our Lady of the Lake College all count among the most affordable schools nationally in their own categories, according to new federal data released Thursday.

The U.S. Department of Education report highlights the most expensive and affordable public, private and for-profit colleges nationwide for public consumption and comparisons.

Also counted among the lowest priced, depending on the criteria, are Southern University at New Orleans, the University of New Orleans, LSU at Shreveport, Our Lady of Holy Cross College in New Orleans, the University of Phoenix in Louisiana, several Louisiana Technical College campuses and the for-profit Baton Rouge College — not to be confused with BRCC.

On the other end, Tulane University in New Orleans ranks among the most-expensive private colleges.

The results can be seen online at http://www.collegecost.ed.gov. The data are based mostly on the 2009-10 school year and not the most recent 2010-11 year.

Most public Louisiana colleges increased tuition levels by 10 percent last year and most plan to do so by another 10 percent this fall.

“We knew that our tuition was low,” state Commissioner of Higher Education Jim Purcell said, noting that Louisiana’s public universities averaged at about the cheapest nationwide.

So there is “room to go up” with recent tuition hikes, he said, even though such cost increases are not ideal in a low-income state.

“We felt that would help our budget concerns,” Purcell said, referencing the cost hikes to help offset state budget cuts to colleges.

Nationally, Penn State University was the most expensive public college, at more than $14,000 in annual tuition.

Sarah Lawrence College in New York charged the most expensive tuition — not counting student housing — for a private, nonprofit university, at about $42,000.

Tulane was not far behind, at more than $40,500. But Tulane did not rank among the most expensive in net prices.

The net prices are calculated based on the total cost of college — including housing — to a full-time freshman student after grants, federal, state and institutional financial aid are subtracted, according to the report.

SUNO had the lowest public university tuition in Louisiana, at just more than $3,000 a year.

But LSU at Shreveport, UL-Lafayette and UNO were the Louisiana universities to rate among the “lowest net prices.” UL-Lafayette came in at just more than $5,042 annually, compared with the $10,747 national average.

BRCC had a low net price of $2,616, against the $6,780 national average for public two-year colleges.

Our Lady of the Lake College scored among the “lowest net prices” for private, nonprofit colleges at a $9,125 cost, compared with the $19,009 national average.

In a prepared statement, OLOL College President Sandra Harper said, “We stand by a commitment to our students to make the education here affordable and to help those in need with scholarships and other aid.”