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Pass the Louisiana GRAD Act

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As the 2010 legislative session draws to an end, much of the fighting is over the budget. But the Legislature must also deal with one of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s priorities for higher education — the Louisiana Granting Resources and Autonomy for Diplomas Act.

 

The legislation, moved in the House by Speaker Jim Tucker, forces lawmakers to loosen the grip they hold on tuition rates for the state’s colleges and universities. In return, the schools must agree to meet performance standards, including better graduation rates.

The Senate has passed the act. A significant portion of the House membership appears to have reservations. We hope supporters can woo these reluctant colleagues into backing a bill that we believe will help UL; LSU; the technical colleges in Lafayette, Opelousas, Crowley, Abbeville, New Iberia, Jennings St. Martinville, and Ville Platte; LSU Eunice; and the South Louisiana Community College campuses in Lafayette, New Iberia and Franklin.

Currently, the Legislature must approve tuition increases, and by a two-thirds majority at that. The Louisiana GRAD Act would give the higher education governing boards the power to raise tuition on their own by up to 10 percent in return for meeting the performance standards.

The act would help address some imbalances, and some outright pecularities, in Louisiana’s higher education system.

It makes funding more flexible at a time when the state’s higher education institutions have sustained $250 million in cuts in less than two years. Yet many students would end up paying less because more of them would go to two-year schools to prepare for universities or to pursue two-year degrees. Even though Louisiana ranks low among states in elementary and secondary achievement, three-quarters of our college-bound students go directly to four-year schools, where education is significantly more expensive. Nationally, the rate is closer to half.

Among the act’s goals are to accelerate the implementation of admission standards, take remedial programs and two-year degree programs out of research universities like UL and LSU, improve job placement rates for graduates of two-year schools, and t eliminate low-participation programs and those that aren’t responsive to the needs of the job market. These changes alone may help the act achieve one of its overarching goals — to raise the six-year graduation rate at Louisiana’s four-year schools. That rate is 38 percent, the Governor’s Office said, compared with an average of 53 percent for other Southern universities.

House opponents say the colleges and universities should meet the standards and then get the power to raise tuition. The Council for a Better Louisiana argues that universities need the financial lifeline now.

We agree with CABL and hope House members back legislation that will help the schools, help the students and brighten Louisiana’s economic future.
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Written by demon53

June 21, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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