The LSU Board of Supervisors has quietly agreed to give out fewer of its hand-picked scholarships and provided structure to the little-known program.
A legislative audit last year raised questions about the Board of Supervisors scholarships, which have been seen as a perk bestowed upon the well-connected, governor-appointed board members. The audit found several lapses in the process for doling out the tuition exemptions — essentially free tuition to 20 students per board member.
The board approved the policy change with no discussion at its meeting Friday.
Under the new policy, LSU will gradually scale back the number of scholarships each board member can award to 15. Not every board member gives out the maximum allowed. Based on figures from the 2013-14 school year — the most recent available — the new cap would have affected about nine members of the 16-person board. LSU’s president and chancellor, as well as president emeritus also are allotted board scholarships to award.
The new policy doesn’t cap the dollar value of scholarships, which vary based on degree level and campus. A student attending graduate school, for example, would have a higher tuition bill than an undergraduate. As for the pricier tuition rates at LSU’s law, medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine programs, the supervisors scholarship pays the value of the graduate student tuition rate on the Baton Rouge campus. Students enrolled in the professional schools have to cover the difference if they are picked. The board can award two out-of-state scholarships each but only to undergraduates, and in-state students who receive TOPS, Louisiana’s state-funded tuition assistance program for undergrads, cannot get scholarships from LSU’s board.
At least 245 of the special scholarships were awarded last year, including one through a board resolution. LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander, who is allowed to give out 20, awarded three scholarships, valued at $41,709 all together. Also, eight were given out by President Emeritus William Jenkins, valued at $70,505. Under the new policy, anyone who holds the president emeritus title will be capped at five scholarships.
The scholarships had been largely a mystery to most outside of the process until the state Legislature in 2013 passed a law to require annual reporting on the scholarships.
In that report, the board is required to disclose who received board scholarships and the value of each.
The total value of the scholarships given out last year was more than $1.9 million — up from $1.4 million the year before, based on the board’s final report.
Only one board member, Ray Lasseigne, gave out the maximum 20 scholarships allowed for the 2013-14 school year. Lasseigne’s tab also was the highest at $153,247.
Among board members, Scott Angelle gave out the fewest board scholarships at four, a total value of $28,238.
Board member Stephen Perry gave out the individual highest valued scholarship at $23,464, which went to a student at LSU Health Sciences in New Orleans.
The audit raised questions over how the scholarships have been distributed, noting that the application was thin, and it wasn’t clear whether academic excellence, special talent or financial need were ever a factor, nor did the university keep records of such qualities of recipients.
Student can access the scholarship application online, but opponents have long questioned whether the scholarships have been distributed based more on connections than achievement or need.
Under the newly adopted policy, students must submit personal statements to aid the selection process.
The new policy also addresses concerns raised in the audit over the board’s poor handling of applications. The audit noted that some applicants had gone entirely overlooked because there was no formal system in place for accepting applications.
Now, applications will be logged electronically, applicants will be notified that their documents have been received and those documents will remain on file for five years.
The board also will form a scholarship review committee to regularly review the policy and provide information on scholarships that are given out.