It should always be a warning signal when Louisiana state government does something in a way that is unusual among the states. That’s often a sign that the state is either stuck in an ages-old rut or is protecting some interest against competition or efficiencies.
So it is with college tuition.
Louisiana, alone among all the states, requires a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature and approval of the governor to raise college tuition. Only one other state has its legislature involved in tuition-setting, and the requirements for passage of a bill are not as steep.
That is why it is reasonable that the Legislature this year should get out of the tuition-setting business, so long as there is a reasonable curb on costs of the tuition waivers in the TOPS program.
The Senate has approved two bills by Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, to achieve the goals of “decoupling” TOPS costs from tuition increases and giving tuition control to college management boards. They would allow TOPS benefits to be increased in the future, but not automatically whenever tuition increases.
Donahue’s tuition measure, Senate Bill 155, would require a vote of the people as a constitutional amendment.
Doesn’t this open the door for more steep tuition increases? It would, if there were not the facts of the marketplace.
“Most of us are not in the position to raise tuition by 10 percent,” said Ron Mason, president of the Southern University System. He was talking in a meeting of The Advocate editorial board with the state’s college leadership, but his point is good for most of the campuses in the state.
The state has seen tuition rise sharply as the administration of Gov. Bobby Jindal has cut aid to colleges and pushed tuition increases to fill the gaps. It’s a Jindal tuition tax on college students.
The limits of the increases in tuition are already in sight for college administrators.
While the Donahue bill has passed the Senate, we hope the House will now look long and hard at a provision that was added in the upper chamber’s committee sessions.
That would allow each management board to set admissions requirements for its institutions.
We fear this is a license for the boards, hard-pressed to get enough students to pay the bills, to cut the academic standards required for students.
That is unfair to students who are pushed into college work for which they are not prepared. They are unlikely to finish school and are instead stuck with no diploma or other credential, and probably some student loan debt.
Admissions standards are a fundamental requirement that should not be abridged, however flexible the state should be on tuition authority in general.