Aside from the presidential race and Louisiana’s open U.S. Senate seat, voters will also have proposed state constitutional amendments on their ballots, one of which deals with tuition increases.
Amendment Two on the 2016 Louisiana ballot would give institutions of higher education authority to raise tuition without legislative approval. Under current law, schools cannot raise their tuition without two-thirds legislative approval.
Schools have been given some leeway with this restriction since 2010, when the state Legislature passed the GRAD Act. The GRAD Act gave schools the authority to increase tuition up to 10 percent without legislative approval, though that law is set to expire by the end of 2016. This means that after this year, schools cannot raise tuition independently unless this constitutional amendment passes.
I’ve heard the reasons people — mostly faculty and school administrators — want this amendment to pass. The state constantly cuts schools’ budgets, and they cannot increase tuition enough to make up the difference, causing universities to cut classes, programs and jobs. We need money to function and grow, and we can’t compete with other schools when our budget is constantly shrinking.
Despite its necessity, I as a student cannot support this constitutional amendment, and I urge all students to vote against it this November. It’s not that I don’t trust universities not to increase tuition to astronomical levels. I oppose this measure because I do not trust state legislators.
Passing this constitutional amendment would give our elected officials a cop-out for higher education funding. Why increase or stabilize revenue for higher education when schools can just let students pick up the tab?
In 2015, Louisiana’s median income was $45,727, more than $10,000 lower than the national average, according to U.S. Census data. The University’s tuition and required fees for full-time, in-state students is $5,379 for fall 2016 and is scheduled to be the same for spring 2017 for students enrolled in 12 hours. That means Louisiana families will spend about a quarter of their income on tuition and fees this academic year. For students taking 15 hours a semester, that percentage is even greater.
I get it. We can’t function without stable funding for universities, and we cannot survive any more budget cuts. For those higher education leaders seeking fiscal stability, this amendment seems like a good option, and I know schools argue the market would organically determine tuition costs.
However, when you live in one of the poorest states in the country, almost any significant tuition increase is too much for students. If you couple that with the fact that TOPS will no longer increase to match tuition and certain fees, some students are pushed out of higher education completely.
As mentioned before, I’m not blind to the fact that schools need more revenue. We can’t attract good students and faculty without better incentives. We, as a student body and as Louisiana residents, have a choice to make. We can allow the state government to continue to gut higher education and leave funding problems to individual institutions, or we can hold lawmakers accountable.
Higher education benefits the entire state. Companies in Louisiana are going to hire Louisiana graduates, college graduates are going to increase the state’s median income and communities with higher income are going to have an improved quality of life. Higher education benefits everyone, so we need to spread the cost to everyone, not just those in college.
Vote “no” on Amendment Two.
Cody Sibley is a 20-year-old mass communication junior from Opelousas, Louisiana.