By The American Press/Lake Charles, La.
LAKE CHARLES, La. —
The funding for Louisiana’s colleges and universities is put in jeopardy by state government whenever there is a budget crunch like the state is currently experiencing. As a matter of fiscal survival, those institutions of higher education need to have the ability to charge higher tuition.
No one likes to see tuition costs go up, especially parents and students. But poor fiscal stewardship by elected state officials is responsible for this unfortunate but necessary choice. People need to pressure their elected officials if they want to see more stability in funding higher education in this state.
Jim Purcell, State Commissioner of Higher Education, recently warned the Louisiana Board of Regents that Louisiana’s schools won’t be successful without the authority to charge more for tuition.
Louisiana is next to the bottom nationwide in funding two-year schools and last in funding four-year schools. At the same time, Louisiana keeps tuition at some of the lowest rates in the nation.
Purcell said, for example, LSU charges tuition at a rate 30 percent less than its peers in other states.
These funding problems make it more difficult for state universities to turn out the high-quality graduates Louisiana needs to continue to grow economically.
Gov. Bobby Jindal and the Legislature have stripped more than $425 million in funding from colleges and universities since 2008 in order to balance state budgets. In roughly the same time period, college administrators have seen their share of state dollars used to fund four-year schools cut in half — from 68 percent to 34 percent.
“You can’t look at the data and say our state values high education,” said Dr. Albert Sam, a regents board member from Baton Rouge. “It’s become increasingly obvious that we don’t.”
Sam is right.
Purcell said this funding situation puts Louisiana schools at an extreme competitive disadvantage nationwide.
“For us to be successful, we need the ability to increase tuition,” specifically among the programs that cost more to offer,” he said.
It costs schools $1,525 in staffing and supplies to offer students one doctoral-level credit in physics, while the state collects only $708 in revenue, Purcell said.
He also noted that schools have reduced administrative staff by 24 percent, faculty by nearly 5 percent; and skilled maintenance workers by 26 percent.
It is the politicians that are to blame for putting the state in this unfortunate circumstance. Louisiana colleges and universities must have the authority to raise tuition.