Education leaders request increased funding for higher education

Monty Sullivan (President of the Louisiana Community and Technical Colleges System), Jim Henderson (President of the University of Louisiana System), Kim Hunter Reed (Commissioner of Higher Education) and F. King Alexander (President of the Louisiana State University System) appeared before the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. (Photo credit: Lauren Heffker, LSU Manship School News Service)

Published: Apr. 25, 2019

By: Lauren Heffker, LSU Manship School News Service

Higher education leaders called on legislators Wednesday to increase funding for state colleges in next year’s budget. The budget bill, proposed by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, would maintain current funding for colleges, but fall about $12 million short of fully financing the popular TOPS scholarship program.

That version of the budget did not include the $119 million of additional state revenue projected by the Revenue Estimating Conference earlier that day. So lawmakers will have more money at their disposal and will face pressure from parents and students to avoid cuts to the scholarship program. Louisiana lags behind most states in re-investing in higher education, Daniel Waguespack, a House fiscal analyst, told the committee. “Remember, we’re really just now starting to stabilize higher education in the state of Louisiana,” he said.

In his opening address to the Legislature on Monday, Gov. John Bel Edwards said he wanted to increase funding for higher education. Education leaders credit Edwards with stabilizing state universities after years of budget cuts by former Gov. Bobby Jindal. Public universities and community colleges across the state are still funded below the Southern Regional Educational Board average for each full-time student.

Among the 16 member states, Louisiana ranks last, according to a report by the House Fiscal Division. While the enrollment for four-year and specialized colleges has remained consistent since the fall of 2010, they still had to raise tuition and fees to pay faculty and offset rising mandated costs for pensions and other expenses that are not funded by the state, administrators said.

Read more in the Natchitoches Times.

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