State gets mixed review on college spending

State gets mixed review on college spending

Staff Writer
Published: Tuesday, February 17, 2015 at 10:30 p.m.


Louisiana was given a C grade in a report by a nonprofit group that examined financial support for higher education.

However, the report warned that any more cuts could be detrimental, especially to low-income families.

The report was released by the Washington-based Young Invincibles that focuses on empowering young Americans with information.

The group evaluated average tuition costs and how much universities rely upon tuition for revenue, state financial aid per student, how much the state spends per student and what percentage of the state budget is spent on higher education. The report also details the trends for each number, using recession spending as a starting point.

Louisiana received an A for state aid per student. The average student receives $1,173 in aid, more than twice the national average of $561, the report states.

The high mark stems from the state’s generous Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, or TOPS scholarships. The program doles out scholarships to state high school students who complete college prep curriculum, graduate with at least a 2.5 grade point average and score at least a 20 on the ACT. It pays for tuition at any state public university.

Louisiana received a B for spending 10 percent of its budget on higher education, a number that has risen since the recession, according to the report. However, that’s still below the national average of 11 percent.

Louisiana families are paying 43 percent of the cost for college, which is slightly below the national average. For that the state was graded C.

“I was surprised by how much states have shifted the cost of college burden to families: In 1987, state budgets covered almost 80 percent of college costs. Families picked up the remaining 20 percent of the tab. Today, just 25 years later, state budgets only pick up half of the bill,” said the report’s author Tom Allison.

Where Louisiana struggles is increasing tuition and low state spending per student. The state received a D and F in those categories.

While average tuition is lower than the national average, it has increased 52 percent since 2008.

High tuition is a deterrent for students to go to college, Allison said.

“We’re working to identify ways to drive down college tuition costs across the country. One way is to get states reinvesting in higher education. In the six years since the Great Recession, states have cut spending per student, on average, by 20 percent. That’s made in-state tuition go up by 28 percent, ” Allison said.

Higher education cuts in Louisiana totaled around $700 million from 2008 to 2013, the largest per-student cuts of any state.

Any further cuts could drop the state’s overall grade, Allison said, and hurt the state’s economy.

“Higher education is the last place that Louisiana should look to slash its budget,” Allison said. “If Louisiana wants to bring down its unemployment rate and get workers contributing more to its economy, the state needs to keep college affordable. Higher education is a critical way to boost a young person’s job prospects and long-term financial security.”

However, state officials are expecting education cuts of as much as $400 million in the next the state budget. While legislators are optimistic that number will be smaller, as many as 15 universities and technical colleges could be closed.

Staff Writer Jacob Batte can be reached at 448-7635 or Follow him on Twitter @ja_batte.