LSU Board approves new student fees

The LSU Board of Supervisors agreed Friday to charge students a number of extra fees aimed mostly at addressing some of the $450 million in deferred maintenance on campus buildings.

The vote came just a few hours after a number of LSU professors pleaded with the board to consider boosting their pay after years of stagnant wages.

In the current tough economic climate, LSU likely won’t be the only of Louisiana’s four college and university systems to tack on extra student fees this fall.

Earlier this week, the state Legislature gave all of the state’s postsecondary education institutions the authority to charge up to $48 per student per semester to help schools keep up with leaky roofs and other crumbling infrastructure that’s part of an estimated $1.7 billion deferred maintenance backlog statewide.

Institutions have already been charging maintenance fees, but House Bill 671, sponsored by state Rep. Franklin Foil, R-Baton Rouge “puts everyone at the same level for deferred maintenance,” he said.

The new charges could raise as much as $18 million a year for Louisiana’s colleges and universities.

The bill gives institutions the leeway to establish criteria to waive the fees for select students who demonstrate financial hardships.

Jason Droddy, LSU’s director of external affairs, has said LSU has a long track record in providing financial relief to needy students

“Each year, we provide more than $11 million in need-based aid to our students,” Droddy said as HB671 was being debated in the Legislature.

The bill also allows LSU to charge digital media students up to $2,500 per semester and a $300 annual dental supply fee for students in LSU’s doctor of dental surgery, dental hygiene and dental laboratory programs.

HB671 also gives LSU the authority to charge a $275 prosthetic device fee for second-year doctor of dental surgery students.

While LSU students will most likely be paying a host of new fees, it doesn’t appear any of that money will make its ways to faculty salaries in the near future.

As Friday’s board meeting got underway, faculty members read prepared statements giving examples of colleagues leaving the state in search of better paying jobs and other statements warning that a lack of pay increases can also keep a university from attracting top-flight talent.

Alumni English Professor Anna Nardo read a letter from a colleague encouraging board members to seek private funding in the absence of state funding to move LSU from the bottom in faculty salaries compared with peer institutions in the South.

“The absence of pay raises over five or six years has been catastrophic,” Nardo read.

LSU Board Chairman Hank Danos said that he understood their fears.

“We are very aware of the situations that you’ve brought to our attention,” Danos said. “We are very aware of these concerns.”