Legislation was defeated Tuesday that would have charged international college students substantially more money than out-of-state students, who already pay inflated rates compared with Louisiana students.
State Rep. Hollis Downs, R-Ruston, said he was concerned the legislation would stamp Louisiana with a “Foreigners Keep Out” message.
State Rep. Damon Baldone, D-Houma, said he proposed House Bill 487 as a way for Louisiana colleges to increase tuition revenues by charging international students more. They often return to their native countries after graduating.
“In these economic times, I truly believe we are leaving money on the table,” Baldone said.
LSU legislative liaison Jason Droddy said the university is projecting that it would actually lose about 70 percent — or 500 students — of its international students because of the increased costs.
Droddy argued the international students would opt for LSU’s out-of-state peers instead.
“What we’re trying to do is bring in talented students with the hope that they remain,” Droddy said.
The majority of LSU’s international students come from India and China.
For instance, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s mother came to LSU from India and his parents opted to remain in Baton Rouge.
This past school year, LSU charged $5,765 in annual tuition and fees for in-state students. Out-of-state and international students paid $16,550.
Under HB487, international students would have instead paid nearly $25,000, or 50 percent more than what out-of-state students paid.
Downs said the legislation could have a “chilling and detrimental effect” on college enrollment levels.
After realizing he did not have the needed votes, Baldone voluntarily withdrew his legislation without forcing a House Education Committee vote.
The legislation also prompted a debate about whether out-of-state and international students are taking the places of Louisiana students, especially in the graduate school programs of Louisiana colleges.
“Are Louisiana students, are they losing a spot because of these internationals?” asked state Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington.
“Our practice is not to turn away American students in favor of international students,” Droddy said, adding, “If the Louisiana student is qualified, we take the Louisiana student.”
There is no cap on LSU accepting in-state undergraduates, Droddy said, and LSU attempts to enroll all the qualified in-state graduate students it can accommodate.
State Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, said he has concerns about the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine turning away many, “very well qualified” Louisiana students in favor of those who pay more tuition.
Droddy said he believes the veterinary school currently does not have any international students.