The Louisiana Board of Regents will meet next week to adopt its priorities for the coming legislative session.
Based on an early review of bills that have been proposed to get the board’s seal of approval, here’s a quick look at legislation the governor-appointed board is likely to seek:
The board backs legislation that would give colleges and universities control over setting tuition and fees for advanced degree programs, including those on the graduate and professional level. House Education Committee Chairman Stephen Carter, R-Baton Rouge, will back that bill, per the board’s information. By focusing on advanced degrees, the proposal would have less impact on the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, which covers bachelor’s degrees. Increases in bachelor’s-level tuition lead to a direct spikes in TOPS costs. (Note: In some cases, when students graduate early, TOPS can cover the first year of an advanced degree.)
The board also is asking for the Legislature to amend the state GRAD Act to give more autonomy to colleges and universities. The goal is to give them more power over procurement, insurance costs and some contracts. That’s expected to be filed by Rep. Bryan Adams, R-Gretna.
The board is putting its stamp on legislation discussed in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s budget recommendation, which would raise the state’s tobacco tax and give the money to schools through a fee/tax credit mashup. The board’s proposal is careful to note that the idea is for be “credits assessed to, but not paid by, students.” No author has been confirmed to carry that bill, according to the board documents.
The board has identified several other bills that have been discussed or prefiled already, but it hasn’t attached a “for” or “against” position to.
The legislative session begins April 13. Obviously, the biggest issue for higher education will be the threat of deep budget cuts, as the state faces a $1.6 billion shortfall.
The Board of Regents meets Wednesday.