Picture this: You’re a kindergarten teacher. For years, the school provided crayons, finger paint and construction paper. They stocked classrooms with desks, books and dry-erase markers. They even paid for snacks, like juice boxes and Honey Buns.
Slowly, things started to change. First, they took away the Honey Buns. The young students didn’t notice, though. They just ate the crayons instead.
Then they took away the finger paint and the construction paper. Administrators said it was your responsibility to pay for it. You whined and groaned — but you had to have those supplies, so you went out and bought them on your measly salary.
Your hardship went unnoticed by students. After all, they still had their supplies, so nothing had changed in their eyes.
Then one day, you received a memo from your boss that said the school would no longer pay for books. Worse, you were not allowed to ask parents to pay for the supplies unless the school board approved your request.
In the meantime, some teachers had already quit to teach at other schools that offered to pay for their classroom supplies. The amount of students in your class grew from 13 to 17 students.
What are you going to do with all these screaming, biting 5-year olds?
The answer Louisiana legislators would give you is to wait on the school board to grant your requests — no matter how long it takes.
Now forget the hypothetical.
In 1995, voters approved a state constitutional provision that requires a two-thirds approval in the Legislature before a public agency can raise fees. Shortly after, the state’s attorney general issued an opinion interpreting tuition as a type of fee.
Louisiana is the only state in the nation that requires the majority approval, although legislative bodies have primary tuition-setting authority in two other states, according to the Board of Regents, which oversees Louisiana’s public higher education institutions.
In effect, the legislature has too much power and not enough time.
Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, serves as the primary sponsor for House Bill 194, which would give the Board of Regents the ability to grant tuition increase requests without the Legislature’s majority approval.
If passed, students should celebrate like they would celebrate any LSU football victory — keg stands, Serrano’s margaritas and a lot of drunken dancing.
Many of you may say, “Hey! Wait just a minute — why would I want to pay more money when school already costs me a fortune?”
In some cases, school has already cost students a hefty portion of their future paychecks due to student loan debt incurred.
But I’d counter with this question: Do you want your degree to be valuable?
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s budgets have stripped funding from higher education year after year since 2008. I won’t bore and confuse you with a flood of dollar signs and budget facts, but I must present one simple comparison from 2008-09 to 2012-13 to prove my point.
In the 2008 fiscal year, the University received 58 percent of its total spending money from the state, while tuition and fee collections accounted for only 36 percent of the revenue.
Fast-forward five years, and those percentages have flip-flopped. Now, tuition and fees account for 61 percent of the spending pie, while state funding represents only 34 percent.
The University does not like this one bit. It abhors tuition raises almost as much as students do.
But if the state continues to decrease spending on higher education, raising tuition is the easiest and most sensible way to keep the University running smoothly.
Even after the recent tuition hikes, tuition and fees at public four-year institutions in Louisiana rank lower than any other state in the Southern Regional Education Board, a nonprofit that collects data on higher education.
Plus, it’s safe to assume most in-state residents don’t pay a dime for tuition at LSU anyway. The University requires a score of at least a 22 on the ACT (1030 SAT) for admission, while the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students requires an ACT score of only 20 to qualify for state-paid higher education.
This is part of the problem, as I wrote before.
I could go on forever — but don’t you see?
Wrestling away tuition-authority from the Legislature is the first step toward sustainable funding.
Ben Wallace is a 22-year-old mass communication senior from Tyler, Texas.