Baton Rouge Rep. Barry Ivey’s creative plan to give universities and colleges more tuition-raising authority, while shielding TOPS recipients from the hikes, fell flat on Tuesday in the Louisiana House.
Ivey’s House Bill 439 would have allowed higher education governing boards, like the LSU and Southern University boards of supervisors, to increase tuition for schools by a limited amount — not more than 10 percent in one year or 20 percent over four years. This is one of a few bills the Legislature has or will consider that gives tuition autonomy to the education boards instead of the Legislature, which currently controls tuition rates.
But Ivey’s bill had an unpopular provision that protected students who receive the state-funded Taylor Opportunity Program for Students scholarship from any tuition increases.
Currently, TOPS awards are linked to tuition rates, so if tuition at a school increases, so does the level of the award so students don’t have to pay any of their tuition. It has a corresponding impact on the state budget, which funds the expensive scholarship program.
Similar to other bills moving in the Legislature, Ivey also proposes isolating TOPS awards so they’re no longer affected by tuition increases. But under his bill, if tuition goes up, students who have TOPS wouldn’t be asked to pay the difference between their TOPS award and the higher tuition. Instead, they’d be exempted, and only students who don’t have TOPS would have to pay the increases in tuition.
“It maintains the integrity of the program,” Ivey said.
TOPS is a merit-based scholarship program for in-state students who make midlevel academic benchmarks in high school, covering the full cost of tuition at public universities and colleges.
Other lawmakers found it offensive that Ivey would propose to put the burden of higher tuition hikes only on students who couldn’t receive TOPS.
“You’re putting it on the kids who can least afford it,” said state Rep. Edward Price, D-Gonzales.
The bill failed 31-59.
Other bills that seek to give schools more control of tuition and to cap TOPS awards are still moving through the Legislature.
Voting for shielding TOPS recipients from tuition hikes (31): Speaker Barras, Amedee, Bagley, Berthelot, Broadwater, S. Carter, Connick, DeVillier, Emerson, Falconer, Foil, Garofalo, L. Harris, Hazel, Hilferty, Hollis, Ivey, M. Johnson, N. Landry, Lopinto, Mack, G. Miller, Pearson, Pope, Pylant, Richard, Schexnayder, Schroder, Shadoin, Simon and Talbot.
Voting against HB439 (59): Reps Abraham, Abramson, Anders, Armes, Bagneris, Billiot, Bishop, Bouie, C. Brown, T. Brown, Carpenter, G. Carter, R. Carter, Chaney, Coussan, Cox, Danahay, Davis, Dwight, Franklin, Gisclair, Glover, Guinn, Hall, J. Harris, Havard, Hill, Hoffmann, Howard, Huval, Jackson, James, Jefferson, Jenkins, R. Johnson, Jones, T. Landry, LeBas, Leger, Lyons, Magee, Marcelle, McFarland, Miguez, D. Miller, Montoucet, Moreno, Jay Morris, Jim Morris, Norton, Pierre, Price, Pugh, Reynolds, Smith, Thibaut, White, Willmott and Zeringue.
Not Voting (14): Reps Adams, Bacala, Carmody, Cromer, Edmonds, Gaines, Henry, Hensgens, Hodges, Horton, Hunter, Leopold, Seabaugh and Stokes.
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