College tuition and fee increase bills were soundly defeated and gutted Tuesday in the House amid complaints about Gov. Bobby Jindal and potentially overburdening students.
House Bill 97 that would give colleges more leeway to increase “operational fees” as tuition costs grow was defeated on a crushing 10-82 vote, falling 60 votes shy of the vote needed for passage.
The vote came right after state Rep. Chris Roy, D-Alexandria, criticized Jindal for backing tuition and fee hikes while opposing a 4-cent cigarette tax renewal.
Roy said the Jindal administration is not doing the necessary things to address the state’s budget problems. Roy’s comments highlight the ongoing budget disputes between Jindal and House members this year.
Barry Erwin, president of the nonprofit Council for a Better Louisiana organization, which lobbies on issues such as education, said the vote was more indicative of the bigger picture disputes than on the merits of HB97.
“I don’t think it (the lopsided vote) was directed at higher education, so much as it was about other stuff going on in the building,” Erwin said of the State Capitol fights.
The other tuition bill considered Tuesday — House Bill 448 by Rep. Hollis Downs, R-Ruston — is being gutted by Downs because the legislation has little to no chance of being approved in the House.
As originally intended, HB448 would clear the way for higher tuition by allowing colleges to charge students for roughly five classes per semester, instead of the current tuition cap of four classes, or 12 credit hours.
Essentially, the bill would let colleges charge many full-time students for an additional class each semester. A student must average 15 credit hours completed per semester in order to graduate in four years, not counting summer school.
But Downs is amending it so colleges will only be able to charge full-time students more for dropping out of classes as a penalty fee, rather than a tuition increase.
The argument is that students schedule more classes than they intend to complete, driving up college expenses, and a penalty fee would serve as a deterrent, he said.
Because Downs and his House colleagues were murky on the details, he pulled the bill from consideration for the day and said it will be voted on later this week.
Tuition and fee increase bills require two-thirds legislative approval, which would mean 70 votes in the House. Even once it is changed, HB448 will still need 70 votes. Louisiana is the only state that requires two-thirds approval for tuition hikes.
The only tuition increase plans to move forward legislatively this session are for cheaper community and technical colleges.