Tuition hike proposed for 2-year schools

Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- The new River Parishes Community College currently under construction features a several-stories atrium at the entrance to the building.
Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- The new River Parishes Community College currently under construction features a several-stories atrium at the entrance to the building.

Community and technical college students in Louisiana likely will have to pay more for school this fall.

The state Board of Regents is set to take up a proposed 10 percent increase in tuition and fees later this month. The hike would mean an estimated $163 a semester for a full-time student at Baton Rouge Community College, $161 a semester at one of the state’s other community colleges and $114 a semester at one of the technical colleges.

The Louisiana Community and Technical College Board signed off on the plan, with little discussion and without dissent, during a meeting Wednesday.

“The additional revenues will assist in providing instruction and services to students and help to maintain operational and deferred maintenance costs of the colleges,” LCTCS director of budget and planning Joseph Marin wrote in a memo on the increase.

More than 100,000 students are enrolled in the state’s 13 community and technical colleges, and the system wants to reach 220,000 in-state students by 2020.

The latest increase proposal follows a battle last year over a similar request. At the time, leaders worried that they were getting too close to the Southern region average.

The tuition and fee hike is expected to generate more than $14 million for the colleges, depending on size. The largest community college — Delgado in New Orleans — would reap the most at an estimated $4.1 million. Those figures are if the system goes to the full 10 percent.

“We continue to work with the Board of Regents on the exact number,” system President Monty Sullivan said.

Earlier this year, Gov. Bobby Jindal pledged to let schools pocket their tuition increases, rather than making up the difference in the state budget. That’s a reversal from the state’s action in recent years, when colleges would raise tuition and lawmakers would decrease general fund dollars in return.

Colleges and universities are allowed to raise tuition up to 10 percent each year if they meet certain benchmarks outlined in the 2010 GRAD Act.

But schools can’t exceed the average tuition of the states that fall under the Southern Regional Education Board, or SREB.

The SREB’s average tuition for community colleges in 2011-2012, the most recent data available, was $2,951 per year. At a proposed $3,556 per year with the new increases, Louisiana’s system would be higher than that, but, like Louisiana, tuition has been on the rise in surrounding states in the years since.

SREB doesn’t yet have data to release to reflect the current median, according to SREB data services director Susan Campbell Lounsbury.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp. For more coverage of the Louisiana Legislature, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog