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Louisiana college tuition autonomy bill nears final passage 

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Louisiana college tuition autonomy bill nears final passage 

May 20, 2024 | 5:46 pm ET
By Piper Hutchinson
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Louisiana college tuition autonomy bill nears final passage聽
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The Louisiana Senate passed a bill Monday giving colleges and universities more autonomy to set their tuition and fees. (Allison Allsop/Louisiana Illuminator)

The Louisiana Senate passed a bill Monday giving colleges and universities more autonomy to set their tuition and fees. 

House Bill 862 by Rep. Jason Hughes, D-New Orleans, would allow boards for Louisiana’s four university systems to set differential tuition for any graduate, professional or high-cost undergraduate programs. The bill would also give the boards complete control over mandatory fees. It passed on a 35-3 vote, with Republican Sens. Mike Fesi of Houma, Valarie Hodges of Denham Springs and Blake Miguez of New Iberia opposing the bill. 

The legislation was amended to align its effective date with a 2022 law that exempts certain graduate assistants from mandatory fees. Because it was amended by the Senate, it must go through one more vote in the House before heading to the governor for a signature or veto. If signed, the law will take effect Aug. 1. 

Differential tuition is an amount charged on top of base tuition for more expensive academic programs, such as lab-heavy curricula in science or engineering. The Board of Regents, the state oversight board for all higher education, would identify which programs are considered “high-cost.”

Louisiana requires a two-thirds of the Legislature to sign off on any tuition changes at its public colleges and universities. Most other states leave this decision up to higher education management boards. 

Hughes’ bill would not allow university systems to raise fees and differential tuition more than 10% every two years. It also allows schools to lower tuition and fees without limits. The ability to lower tuition has been sought for some high-demand fields such as teaching. The bill would not have an impact on the cost of TOPS, which provides state-funded student aid to many Louisiana students, as the amount of the award is no longer directly tied to the cost of tuition. 

The proposal also gives university systems control over mandatory fees for any program. Tuition and fees at Louisiana universities increased drastically during the 2010s, when the burden to finance higher education was shifted from the state to students.