Higher Education officials are asking the House Appropriations Committee for $1.1 billion next fiscal year. That’s $188 million more than they received in the current budget.
Higher Education Commissioner Joseph Rallo pointed to fiscal year 2008-2009, when “the state allocated over $1.5 billion to higher education. That amount now has been reduced by nearly half. That means the burden of public higher education has been transferred from the state to the student.”
65% of the $188 million increase would go towards fully funding the TOPS program and increasing Go Grants, “a need-based program that was funded a few years back and it never really went beyond the two years of funding.”
The Board of Regents is considering asking TOPS students to carry more hours each year in order to keep the TOPS scholarship. Instead of twelve hours per semester, students may be asked to take thirty hours per year, encouraging them to finish sooner, before their TOPS award runs out.
“It’s really focusing on getting students through the process at a brisker pace,” explains Rallo.
LSU President F. King Alexander says not fully-funding TOPS last session has created a lot of uncertainty for students.
“Currently," he says, "we’re about 3.5% down on students from last year’s spring count going into this year’s spring count.”
It’s unclear whether that’s only because of TOPS. But Alexander says the real concern is how student enrollment will be affected next fall.
In addition, the Governor is proposing an $18 million mid-year cut for higher education in order to deal with the $313 million shortfall from last year’s budget.
Alexander explains the university is looking at their sixteenth cut in nine years.
He says it's just one more blow for a university that spends some of the least money per student.
"I just don't know how much more efficient we can become when you're 46th out of fifty in per student spending."