If there is any doubt that colleges were big losers in the last legislative session, look at the proposal advanced this week to raise tuition at community colleges and technical schools. An estimated 10 percent increase is planned — and these are supposed to be the accessible, lower-cost institutions.
The two-year schools are not alone in proposing tuition increases. The Board of Regents later this month is expected to decide on tuition-raising authority for four-year schools.
Sadly, the tuition increases aren’t really investments in quality. They are needed to raise money to replace the cuts in college funding by Gov. Bobby Jindal and legislators over the past five years.
During the session, there was legitimate concern that budget cuts caused by funding disputes among lawmakers and the administration would result in catastrophic cuts for colleges. That prospect was averted, and we supported Jindal in that dispute.
But the underlying reality is that the Jindal era has been bleak for Louisiana students with aspirations for a high-quality college education and the future that a respected degree can open up for their young lives.
Even with worst cuts averted, the Jindal budget cuts college support by $66 million in the fiscal year beginning July 1. It’s a serious blow masked in the discussion because of the threats of a larger disaster.
Great. So the train wreck was averted. We’re back to the slow-motion disaster instead.
The Board of Regents expects colleges to meet the performance standards, including improved graduation rates, that are part of the package needed for tuition increases this fall.
That’s part of the discussion that should take place, but the tuition increases — funding tax cuts pushed by Jindal and lawmakers — are expedients that are forced on institutions by a short-sighted state administration.