Southern U. approves 10 percent tuition hike

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Southern University has become the last of Louisiana's four public college systems to raise tuition.

The Advocate reports that a 10 percent tuition increase was approved Friday by Southern University Board of Supervisors.

In early May, Southern System President Ronald Mason said Southern had "no choice" but to approve an increase.

Full-time undergraduate students will pay $5,806 in tuition and fees this year, $628 more than what they paid last academic year, according to college figures. Nonresident Southern students will pay $13,138 for the next academic year, or $1,412 more than last academic year, according to the board.

Southern University, LSU, University of Louisiana and Louisiana Community and Technical College systems were able to pursue the 10 percent tuition hike under the 2010 LA GRAD Act.

The law measures several dozen benchmarks based mostly on student success, including improved graduation and retention rates.

Schools that meet their GRAD Act targets are allowed to increase tuition by up to 10 percent each year. Additionally, the state's performance-based formula ties 15 percent of overall state funding for each college on meeting the GRAD Act goals.

Last year, all of Louisiana's public colleges reached their goals. This year, only LSU at Eunice and Southern University at Shreveport failed to hit their targets.

Mason said Southern's Shreveport campus, known as SUSLA, is appealing its GRAD Act designation due to what he called a technical error in the calculation.

The Louisiana Board of Regents, the state's top higher education board, is expected to review the appeal before fall classes start. Rising tuition has become the new norm in Louisiana as the burden of funding the bulk of higher education has shifted from the state onto students over the past several years.

According to a compilation by the Board of Regents, the state's top higher education board, students were responsible for paying a third of the state's higher education costs through tuition and fees during the 2006-07 fiscal year.

Following years of back-to-back state budget cuts, tuition and fees are anticipated to make up about 62 percent of those costs starting in the fall, the Regents calculation says.

The state has cut roughly $360 million from colleges since 2008 including $25 million schools had to scramble to cut this month to keep the state's budget balanced after state tax collections came in lower than expected.

In the fiscal year that starts on Sunday, college systems will have to absorb another $66 million in cuts from the state, according to the most recent budget put together by the Legislature.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)