LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - In November, Louisiana voters will decide whether to allow university systems to set their own tuition rates. The constitutional amendment gives some freedom to colleges and universities and could create a more competitive atmosphere, according to Sen. Dan "Blade" Morrish, R-Jennings.
All states except for Louisiana and Florida give the power of setting tuition to the public university system. In the Bayou State, the legislature controls how much students pay for classes. Morrish hopes to change that.
"To take that authority away from the legislature and give it to the systems, so to LSU, Southern and the UL systems," said Morrish,who authored a constitutional amendment this session allowing university boards to control tuition at their facilities.
Similar legislation has been proposed before, but Morrish said this is the right timing, especially after cuts to the higher education budget.
"They could make up the difference with tuition," he said, adding "that's probably what many of them would do."
If the people pass the amendment in November, it would mean universities would take a long, hard look at what they are worth.
"It's going to make it very competitive they are going to have to look at what their tuition criteria is and how much TOPS is going to pay, and I think that controls them," said Morrish.
He said for full time students - whether enrolled in 12 hours or 18 - tuition is the same. That could change if tuition control shifts.
"The student that takes 18 hours uses the university more, and McNeese may or may not choose to charge a higher tuition for that 18 hours," he said.
Also, courses requiring expensive equipment and lab hours, cost the same as a lecture classes. The amendment could give universities like McNeese the ability to charge different rates for classes, helping the school use its budget more efficiently.
Some against the amendment are concerned with what this might mean years down the road.
"Let's just say LSU, given the ability to raise their tuition whenever they want, they'll price themselves right out of the market and the kids will be paying more," said Rep. Kenneth Havard, R-Jackson. "I mean it'll cost as much to go to LSU as it will Harvard in 10 years."
Morrish said tuition rates would be held to certain criteria to help avoid a price-gouging situation. Those details will be worked out if the amendment passes. We reached out to McNeese, but they declined to comment at this time.