LSU students stock

LSU students navigate campus between classes, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017, in Baton Rouge, La.

LSU students will have to pay more out of pocket in fees to attend school this fall.

With very little discussion and no objections, the LSU Board of Supervisors approved Thursday a student-fee increase of about 2 percent across the board. The 16-member board sets policies for the LSU campuses across the state.

Depending on the program and the school the increase will be anywhere from a $4 per credit hour “athletic fee” for LSU Alexandria students to $270 for those attending the LSU Law School to $600 per semester “student excellence” charges at the LSU Vet School.

The 30,000 or so undergrads on the flagship’s Baton Rouge campus will pay $270 more for “student excellence.”

That’s on top of $1,384.70 currently charged, meaning students enrolled to take 15 credit hours will have to pay $1,655 in fees, according to LSU fee schedules. And none of those fees are covered by TOPS.

Classes begin Aug. 21

The increase is expected to raise about $15.8 million systemwide. The money will supplement faculty and staff pay raises, called merit increases, as well as support instructional services, according to Board of Supervisors documents.

LSU Eunice and the Health Science Centers in New Orleans and Shreveport won’t have fee increases. And while Louisiana students at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine will be charged more, students from other states will see a $600 reduction on their nonresident fee.

For the first time in years, the Legislature kept the higher education budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, pretty much the same – about $2.6 billion – as this year’s budget.

“Even though we remained flat,” Daniel Layzell, vice president for finance and administration, said Thursday in an interview, “we have to look at it as a win. The budget proposal started much lower than that.”

LSU’s operating budget is about $533 million, of which state government contributes about 26 percent of the funding.

LSU didn’t lose money in next year’s budget. But, costs like health insurance and pensions, have increased, as they do every year. Layzell said the fee hikes on students are aimed at covering some of those cost increases that otherwise would have to be paid for out of the budget.

Another highlight from last week was that the Louisiana Legislature passed a final budget that fully funds TOPS, a year after it was decided that the program – for the first time in its history – wouldn't cover 100 percent of students' tuition.

The ability to fund TOPS at its $291.2 million projected need while also protecting state colleges and universities from funding cuts was touted by lawmakers and Gov. John Bel Edwards as one of the few bright spots in the budget.

“I thank the governor for holding true and not funding TOPS on the backs of our institutions,” said LSU President F. King Alexander.

Lawmakers last year passed a budget that had funded TOPS at 70 percent. That left students picking up the out-of-pocket difference during the school year that just ended.

Taylor Opportunity Program for Students scholarships are awarded to Louisiana high schoolers who earn at least a 2.5 GPA on an outlined high school curriculum and score at least a 20 on the standardized ACT test and choose to attend college in the state.

Lawmakers agreed allow colleges and universities to continue setting and modifying fees on their own until mid-2020. Edwards announced earlier this week that he had signed the bill into law.

Follow Mark Ballard on Twitter, @MarkBallardCnb.