Board Grants Approval to Raise Tuition by 3 Percent

Board Grants Approval to Raise Tuition by 3 Percent – Feb 25, 2005

Students Voice Reluctant Support, Urge More State Funding

For Immediate Release: February 25, 2005
Contact: Catherine Soileau Heitman, 225-342-6950 or 225-219-0265

BATON ROUGE, La. – Saying “universities can’t afford not to approve a tuition increase,” college student leaders gave their support today to a 3 percent tuition hike that will go into effect this summer.

The measure, which gained final approval by the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System, will increase tuition an average of $48 per semester at the system’s eight campuses — Grambling State University, Louisiana Tech University, McNeese State University, Nicholls State University, Northwestern State University, Southeastern Louisiana University, UL Lafayette and UL Monroe.

The increase will raise an estimated $7.6 million in gross revenues and will be applied to increased operating costs the universities are anticipating next year. With the adjustment, tuition at UL System schools in 2005-06 will still be an average 18.5 percent ($621) below the average tuition paid in southeastern states in 2004-05, the most recent year for which figures are available. Although most states increased tuition since then, final figures have not been released.

Act 1117 of the 2001 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature authorized the Board of Supervisors to adjust tuition and mandatory attendance fees by no more than 3 percent annually. This is the final year of this authorization.

“This decision is not easy for any of us to make today, and it is no surprise that it is even more difficult for me as the student board member,” UL Lafayette Student Government Association President Katie Ortego said. “My fellow student leaders and I realize that it is not easy to ask students to pay more tuition, but we must ask ourselves if our universities can afford not to approve this 3 percent increase.”

Before deciding to support the increase, student leaders met with UL System President Sally Clausen and Higher Education Commissioner Joseph Savoie to gain a clearer perspective on how Louisiana universities compare to their counterparts in the region and the needs that universities must meet to remain operational, let alone competitive.

“We are so far behind our regional peers. It affects our campuses and it affects student morale,” Louisiana Tech SGA President Kimberly Ludwig said.

Ludwig, who is president of the statewide Council of Student Body Presidents, said she has noted that other campuses that are better financed can offer students more – newer facilities, technology and a wider variety of services.

“When there is a lack of funding, these are the types of things that get pushed to the back burner,” she said.

Board Chair Mike Woods said the disparity in funding between Louisiana universities and their counterparts nationally makes it difficult for them to compete for top faculty and students.

“We either have to generate revenue on the tuition side or the state appropriation side. We’re dead last in both,” he said.

Finance Committee Chair Andre Coudrain noted that the 3 percent increase will not cover universities’ anticipated mandated cost increases and losses of revenue expected when universities lose students as a result of increased admission requirements this fall.

“We’re not even breaking even. We’re treading water and getting further away from shore,” Coudrain said. He said UL System universities have employed cost-savings measures, but these measures cannot make up the shortfall.

Board member Victor Bussie expressed concern that increasing tuition makes it easier for the state to avoid committing more state appropriation dollars to universities.

“Let’s think about what’s going to happen in the future if we continue to raise tuition costs, especially if we’re going to help every child achieve a college education,” he said.

Clausen said she is working with Savoie and the administration to find ways to maintain the state’s recent support of post-secondary education and avoid any loss of momentum achieved in recent years.

“Governor Blanco is doing everything she can. We have her support,” Clausen said.