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Aug 4, 2010 9:54 PM by Alison Haynes

Tuition boosted at Louisiana colleges

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - When students return to Louisiana's
public colleges this month, they'll be slapped with larger bills,
hundreds of dollars in tuition increases even as family budgets
have tightened.
Tuition is going up between 8 percent and 10 percent at all
four-year campuses and two-year community colleges, under a newly
passed law that allows the fee hikes in exchange for promises of
improved performance.
College leaders have said the tuition increases are needed to
help offset more than $250 million in cuts that have stripped state
funding from the campuses in the last two years and to cope with
another $300 million in reductions expected to be levied upon them
in a year. They also note that Louisiana schools charge less than
colleges and universities across the South.
Shikinley Mitchell, a 22-year-old senior at Southern University,
said students are paying more, but getting less as colleges cut
offerings, reduce services and lay off teachers.
"They're still cutting classes. There's no difference. There's
no better programs. There's no new equipment. There's nothing to
show where the extra money is going," Mitchell said.
LSU student Mattelynn Franklin agreed, saying while she
understands the need for higher tuition rates, the university is
cutting valuable programs and staff and wasting money on midlevel
bureaucrats and administrators.
"I don't mind tuition increases because Louisiana has one of
the cheapest schools as far as the flagship schools, but we need to
get something good out of it," said Franklin, a 20-year-old junior
majoring in business administration.
With the passage of the Louisiana GRAD Act in the recently ended
legislative session, the tuition increases will raise more than $60
million for schools this year. Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa,
chairman of the Senate Education Committee, called the tuition hike
authority "a lifeline to our colleges and universities in this
state."
To get the increases, the schools have to agree to work on
performance improvements, like increasing admission standards,
improving graduation rates and boosting efforts to get students
jobs.
Schools enter voluntary six-year agreements with the Board of
Regents, which governs public higher education in Louisiana.
They'll have to start showing demonstrated progress on the
performance benchmarks by the 2012-13 school year or lose the
tuition increases.
Meg Casper, a spokeswoman for Regents, said no campus has a
finished performance agreement with the board, but she said the
work on those should be completed this month, as the tuition
increases begin for students.
At four-year schools, the boosted costs range from a $324 annual
increase at Southern University-New Orleans to $537 a year more at
LSU's flagship campus in Baton Rouge. Tuition for a full-time
undergraduate student at SUNO is $3,488, and that cost is $5,770 at
LSU.
At community colleges, the tuition hike varies from $164 at
SOWELA Technical Community College in Lake Charles, where a
full-time student pays $1,758 annually, to $215 at Delgado
Community College in New Orleans, where it costs $2,317 a year.
For thousands of students like Franklin, the tuition increase
won't come out of their own pockets because they get free college
tuition from the state through the TOPS scholarship program. A
majority of undergraduates at LSU are on TOPS scholarships.
Meanwhile, Mitchell, a mass communications major, said she has
to take out an extra student loan to pay the costs of her increased
tuition at Southern.
While she receives some federal grant money, Mitchell said that
didn't cover her costs and she's borrowed money to pay for college.
She said her father can't afford to help her because he is saddled
with doctors' bills for her mother, who had two strokes and can no
longer work.
More troubling for Mitchell, she said the budget cuts that are
shrinking class offerings likely will force her to stay in school
an extra semester to get all the courses she needs, "which is more
tuition, which is another loan," she said.
And the costs are only expected to continue rising for students.
Schools meeting the performance requirements under the GRAD Act
can raise their tuition by up to 10 percent a year until they reach
the average of similar schools in the South, or for LSU the average
of state flagship schools around the country. After that, schools
can increase tuition up to 5 percent a year or an amount equal to
the growth in a national higher education price index, whichever is
greater.

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