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Editorial: Louisiana college costs still a sweet deal

Last Modified: Tuesday, November 05, 2013 3:50 PM

Though tuition for four-year universities in Louisiana has risen dramatically over the past few years, the cost for students remains a bargain.

According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees at a four-year public university nationwide is $8,893 annually. That’s following a 2.9 percent increase from the previous year, one of the lowest hikes in more than 30 years, according to the College Board.

From 2008-2010, college tuition rose an average of 5 percent per year, according to the Associated Press.

The average annual tuition and fees at a private university for 2013-2014 cost $30,094. Two-year institution average annual tuition and fees for the current year are $3,264.

College Board President David Coleman noted that the rate of tuition increases has slowed in recent years.

That hasn’t been the case in Louisiana

Through the GRAD Act, Louisiana’s public universities have been given the latitude to raise tuition by as much as 10 percent annually if the institution meets certain criteria. Four-year and two-year institutions have taken advantage of that freedom.

Once upon a time, state money covered about 65 percent of educating a student in a Louisiana public university with tuition covering the remaining 35 percent. In recent years, those numbers have flip-flopped with students now picking up about 65 percent of the tab.

Still, the average annual tuition for the eight universities in the University of Louisiana system for 2013-14 is $6,012, with McNeese boasting the lowest tuition at $5,475.

Even LSU’s annual in-state tuition of about $7,870 is well under the national average.

Coleman also noted that even with the pace of tuition increases slowing, federal grants to help students and their families are not keeping up. In fact, in 2012-2013, federal aid per full-time student fell 9 percent.

American Council on Education President Molly Corbett Broad labeled federal grants not keeping up with tuition increases ‘‘troubling’’.

‘‘Institutions are committed to holding down costs,’’ she said, ‘‘but it is equally important for state and federal governments to play their part to make college affordable.’’

Despite the hikes, post-secondary degrees remain a sweet deal in Louisiana.

And nearly every study shows that the vast majority of students who earn a degree from a four-year institution or a degree or certification from a two-year technical college will earn thousands of dollars more in their working career than their counterparts who only earned a high school diploma.

It doesn’t take a college grad to figure out who benefits from that type of math.

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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, Mike Jones, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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