higher education

The bill that was supposed to save the budget from Governor Bobby Jindal’s veto pen sank in House committee Wednesday.

Jack Donahue’s SB 284, known as the SAVE bill, would have created a fee on college students. Students wouldn’t actually pay it; instead, just by registering for classes, they would assign the tax credit for that “fee” over to higher education’s Board of Regents.

“This, to me, just seems like it’s a gimmick,” Gonzales Rep. Eddie Lambert said of the scheme. “Why are we doing this?”

House and Senate committees worked on numerous bills Wednesday, while awaiting today’s main event: the House floor debate on the budget. Several of those bills were previously featured here on Capitol Access.

Jack Donahue’s Senate-approved bill to uncouple TOPS from college tuition found favor with the House Education committee, helped along by the widow of the program’s founder, Phyllis Taylor.

“I would never stand here and support anything that limited the TOPS program,” Taylor told the committee. “We are seeking certainty, not limitations.”

Remember the MOOC?

Just a few years ago, the Massive Open Online Course was expected to reinvent higher education. Millions of people were signing up to watch Web-based, video lectures from the world's great universities. Some were completing real assignments, earning certificates and forming virtual study groups — all for free.

Surely the traditional college degree would instantly collapse.

As state lawmakers grapple with the $1.6-billion shortfall in the next budget, the House Appropriations Committee has asked budget analysts to investigate each department’s fiscal ups-and-downs over the Jindal administration years. Legislative budget analyst Chris Keaton says overall state revenues have dropped much less than the shortfall would indicate.

“Total state General Fund that we had available to spend went from $9.3-billion in 2006-07, to $9-billion in 2015-16,” Keaton announced Wednesday.

It's late afternoon. Most classes at Randolph College are done for the day but students have begun gathering in the lobby of the elegant, century-old main hall.

A student taps on a piano while he and four classmates wait for their philosophy professor. After-hours sessions like these are a key feature of this small, private liberal arts college in Lynchburg, Va.

It markets itself nationally as a "unique, nurturing community of learners," well worth the $45,000 a year in tuition, room and board.

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