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Constitutional amendment would give university management boards authority over tuition amounts

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

Attracting college students, especially those with academic excellence is a very competitive business.

"I think universities need the flexibility to respond to market forces, in the same way that business needs to set its prices to be marketable and to be competitive in the market,” said UNO President John Nicklow.

On November 8, Louisiana voters will decide the fate of proposed Constitutional Amendment #2.

It would give the state’s four higher education management boards authority over tuition and fee changes. That authority now rests with the legislature.

"In fact, I can't lower tuition without legislative approval, think about that, I can't tuition without legislative approval, I want the ability to respond and be competitive in a higher education market that's in-state, but also out-of-state,” said Dr. Nicklow.

He said the current situation creates uncertainty.

“At the current time, I really don't have an opportunity to respond and create strong budget planning models without knowing what the legislature will do year-to-year,” continued Dr. Nicklow.

He said passage of the amendment would not mean automatic tuition hikes.

I can tell you this, why would UNO increase its tuition significantly at a time when I'm trying to grow enrollment? It doesn't make any sense. And so that's not the point, it's not a green light to raise tuition,” said Dr. Nicklow.

"I think that the control should revert back to the way it was in 1995 to the individual institutions,” said veteran State Senator Conrad Appel, R-Metairie.

He is a member of the Senate Education Committee.

"I personally do not believe that the legislature should be dealing with the financial matters related to Higher Ed, those are specific to the individual institutions,” said Sen. Appel.

Some students shared their opinion of the proposal.

"The university probably knows what would be more beneficial for it as opposed to the politicians, they know what's really going on inside and how it would affect their operation and how students would react to it,” said Jasmine Cooley, a junior at UNO.

"I think the schools know their students best and their prospective, so I think they're the most informed to be making those kinds of decisions,” said Pearson Kunz, a senior at UNO.

While there has not been any organized vocal opposition to the measure, some citizens have questioned whether accountability will be impacted.

Supporters said, no.

"I think just the opposite, I think it becomes more of a free-market model and if institutions don't offer a good product that the students are willing to pay for then the students won't attend,” said Sen. Appel.

"I think our systems, our Board of Regents, our legislators will hold us accountable and I support accountability in every sense of the word,” said Dr. Nicklow.

Sen. Appel thinks the state has to find a way to adequately fund its public universities. He believes there the spending structure should be reformed to make sure top priorities like higher education and healthcare are funded properly.

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