Hold down higher education tuition

Published 11:56 am Friday, October 3, 2014

State higher education leaders are discussing budgetary problems, and future discussions need to include the soaring cost of tuition. Many young graduates are saddled with paying back crushing, high debt when they are just getting started in life. Alternatives to going into massive debt to finance a college education also need to be part of the discussion.

At a recent meeting of Louisiana’s college and university systems, the main concern was possible budget cuts.

“For the LSU System, University of Louisiana System and the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, the Legislature’s decision not to cut funding for higher ed this year, after years of repeated cuts, and to allow universities to keep the tuition dollars they bring in with tuition increases through the 2010 GRAD Act has meant some ‘breathing room,’ ” reads a Baton Rouge Advocate story.

“Regents chairman Clinton ‘Bubba’ Rasberry said it’s too early to know what state lawmakers have in store for next year’s budget.

“ ‘It’s a stability we’ve just not had the past five years,’ he said. ‘We’re going to need to be able to talk to that come spring.’ …

“ ‘The biggest challenge is the GRAD Act,’ interim Southern Chancellor Flandus McClinton said. ‘The targets are extremely high.’

“Members of the board didn’t appear interested in attempting to lower the GRAD Act requirements to give Southern University a better shot at meeting them,” reads the Advocate story.

“ ‘Unless the GRAD Act was intended to literally close schools down, then maybe it’s time to start rethinking some of this,’ (Southern University System President Ronald) Mason said.

“The other system leaders gave a bit rosier pictures of their financial outlooks, though there are still issues,” reads the Advocate story.

“LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander said LSU’s main campus significantly lags behind the national average for college expenditure per student.

“ ‘That’s not a good selling point,’ he said. ‘Can you imagine what we’d be doing if we were funded at the national average?’

“Board members asked LSU’s staff to draft a theoretical budget — a demonstrative prop to show state leaders,” reads the Advocate story.

“ ‘I would like to see what budget do you need to have in 2016 and 2017 to meet the state’s workforce demands,’ board finance committee chairman Roy Martin said. ‘Everything has got to grow at LSU.’

“He said he wanted something to take to the legislative appropriations committees. Rasberry said he would like to show it to next year’s gubernatorial candidates.

“University of Louisiana System President Sandra Woodley said among her major concerns in the UL system are Grambling University and the University of New Orleans, where enrollment continues to lag nearly a decade after Hurricane Katrina,” reads the Advocate story.

“She also worries about faculty, many of whom haven’t had raises in years.

“ ‘We continue to lose good faculty,’ she said.

“On the community and technical college side, LCTCS President Monty Sullivan said he would like to get to the point where the system can fund with institutions’ needs in mind, rather than factors that only reflect demand.”

Holding down tuition and finding alternatives to massive debt need to be part of the budgetary discussions.(MGNonline)