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Memorial Tower stands tall behind Coates Hall on LSU's Campus, Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021.

Every year, students see the daunting number on their fee bill grow larger and larger, yet many don’t know why it's increasing or where the money goes. Interim executive vice president for Finance and Administration Donna Torres breaks down where tuition and other fees go every semester.

Seventy-six percent of LSU is funded by tuition money, and 24% is funded by the state. This ratio used to be inverted, where the state paid for 76% of tuition and students paid for 24%, until public policies changed due to the state's economic troubles.

“We went through a number of budget cuts with prior administration, and as the budget from the state was cut, tuition increased in order to offset those cuts," Torres said.

Every semester, students can view an itemized list of expenses on their fee bill, of which tuition is the highest charge.

Fees are divided by unrestricted and restricted accounts. Restricted funds are dedicated to a specific purpose and are non-transferrable to other offices or services. All auxiliary services receive their money from student fees, not the university's general fund or tuition.

The unrestricted account is made up of tuition and the state's appropriations and is considered LSU's "general fund." It can be allocated as the university sees fit, but primarily covers facility and faculty expenses.

“All of those separate fees go into separate pots and they're restricted to be used only for their designated purpose,” Torres said.

One example of a restricted fund is the student technology fee. LSU can only use the money collected from that specific fee for technology projects, and those funds are allocated through a council comprised of mostly students.

Unrestricted funs are allocated out to departments based upon enrollment and student credit hours. It is based partly on credit hours to ensure money is proportionately designated. That number can show where additional classes and professors are needed.

“What do we do with your tuition dollars? We run the university,” Torres said. “We pay the utilities and the water, sewer—all of the things you need. Maintain the buildings, pay faculty salaries, pay the fringe benefits related to the salaries, like retirement.”

The UREC, sports teams, LSU dining, student media and housing are all examples of facilities not paid for by LSU's general, unrestricted fund—they are all funded by LSU's student fees. 

All of LSU's athletics are self-supported. They acquire their funding through athletic activities such as ticket sales or concessions, along with donations to the Tiger Athletic Foundation. None of the coaches are paid directly by LSU's academic funds.

“When you pay the fee for [sporting event tickets], the revenue from that fee goes directly to athletics,” Torres said.

It's the same for housing: LSU doesn't fund housing, students do. The housing payment students make on their bill is directly allocated to a small pot restricted for housing services, such as renovating infrastructure, facility bills and paying residential advisors and staff that work for Residential Life.

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