Costs to grow again for Louisiana State University students

Posted at 1:03 PM, Jun 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-30 14:03:51-04

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – Louisiana State University is again raising student fees at its main campus by 5 percent, a price hike approved Friday that drew worries the consistent, annual increases could price some students out of school or at least chase them elsewhere.
Campus leaders said the $282 per-semester fee hike for full-time students – and the more than $14 million raised by it – was needed for pay raises and other expenses to keep pace with peer institutions and make up for nearly a decade of state financing cuts.
But even as they backed the boosted charges on students, some LSU Board of Supervisors members worried the fees are growing too burdensome for lower- and middle-class students and their families. Fees were raised a similar amount last year and the ever-increasing charges aren’t covered by the state’s TOPS tuition aid program.
Board member James Williams, from the New Orleans area, said the fees on LSU’s main campus in Baton Rouge are out of step with similar schools around the South.
"I have real concerns about this. I understand the need for it. I understand the needs we have," Williams said. But he added that he worried about giving "only 30-days’ notice to working-class families (who) need to come up with what can be significantly more money."
Board member Blake Chatelain, of Alexandria, said no one wants to charge students more.
"Costs are rising every year. Faculty salaries are 10 percent below peer. Expenditures per student are significantly below peer," Chatelain said. "LSU is still a wonderful value for our students."
LSU President F. King Alexander blamed lawmakers, saying they have put university officials in the position of seeking more dollars from students after cutting state appropriations across higher education by 53 percent over the last decade.
State funding for the upcoming 2018-2019 school year is flat, but Alexander said campuses still are digging out from prior cuts, while coping with mandated increases in retirement and other expenses.
University officials said they’ve increased needs-based aid to students on top of tuition coverage that most students on the main campus receive through TOPS. The Board of Supervisors only approved the fee hike after agreeing to steer more money to hardship waivers.
The fee increase for the main campus was part of a package of nearly $17 million in boosted charges on students approved across LSU’s campuses in Shreveport, Alexandria and Eunice, as well as the medical, law and veterinary schools.
Lawmakers have given Louisiana colleges and universities the ability to set and modify their own fees, within certain parameters, until mid-2020.