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Editorial: Higher education officials need more flexibility in setting tuition

Last Modified: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 7:13 PM

Another plea has gone out to state lawmakers to allow universities in the state more flexibility in setting tuition for students.

University of Louisiana System Interim President Tom Layzell made the request earlier this month to members of the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget.

Layzell said universities in the state are near the breaking point of being able to function effectively because of repeated budget cuts.

He noted that higher education in the state has absorbed more than $425 million in budget cuts over the last four years. That includes $200 million in cuts to the universities in the University of Louisiana System, of which McNeese State is a member.

Layzell said the nine member institutions have carried on their mission under these trying times, noting that enrollment at the universities has increased by 14 percent over the past four years while state funding has decreased about 26 percent.

In an effort to increase more efficiency, Layzell told the state lawmakers that the UL System now offers 12 percent of all of its available degree programs online.

The UL System also announced last month that its nine universities will collaborate on a degree program that will result in a bachelor’s of arts degree in organizational leadership.

Aimed at luring students who dropped out of college, the universities will all offer core classes, but specific courses will be taught by faculty at different universities.

In this case, necessity is the motherhood of innovation.

But several university presidents warned that the budget cuts have resulted in the loss of faculty in the fields of math, science and engineering. Southeastern Louisiana University President John Crain testified that because of the loss of quality faculty members and resources they employ, some UL universities are at risk of losing accreditation.

Layzell said universities should have the ability to charge different tuition for different degree programs. He said a degree in engineering, math or the sciences are more costly for the university to offer than liberal art degrees.

Given the down-to-the-bone cuts universities have had to endure over the past few years, higher education officials’ requests for more latitude in raising tuition isn’t unreasonable.

• • •

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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