HAMMOND, LA (WAFB) - It's no secret the cost of higher education is going up at colleges around the nation. It's also taking students longer to complete their degrees, leading to more costs.
"If I didn't have my family to help me with it, I wouldn't be able to afford it," said college student, Frank D'Amico. That means students and families are doing more to find affordable education. For example, the Boulware family traveled from Milwaukee to tour Southeastern Louisiana University in part because the family's eldest son could qualify for lower tuition with his academic record.
"The affordability for the family, to not put my son in debt or the family in debt too far, we're looking for value," said father, Steve Boulware.
According to SLU's president, John Crain, the university has faced 18 state budget cuts over the last decade. With each cut, the school has increased tuition or fees. Since 2009, Crain estimates tuition has increased 138 percent. Tuition at SLU, including fees, currently sits at around $8,000 per year. With lawmakers again considering cuts and struggling to fully fund TOPS, the financial future of higher education in Louisiana is as uncertain as ever.
In response, Southeastern is making a new guarantee for incoming freshmen in 2017 called The Southeastern Promise. If students agree to complete their degree in four years and remain in good academic standing, the university promises not to increase their tuition during that four years.
"We believe The Southeastern Promise provides incentive to complete an undergraduate degree in four years, hopefully that will reduce the cost of attaining the degree, and move the student into the workforce more quickly," said Crain.
The Southeastern Promise is an optional program, and Crain says it may not be a good fit for every student. For now, the program is also only being offered to freshmen enrolling in 2017. If the program is successful, Crain says they will expand it to other students or classes. In addition to the tuition freeze, students who opt in to the program will get access to specialized academic counseling to make sure they get into the classes they need. The program is the first of its kind in Louisiana and a sign of relief for some students.
"I'm glad that it's going to be available for students who are incoming because they're dealing with the brunt of entering college without the certainty of TOPS," said SLU student body president, Erin Fernandez.
"Anytime things don't escalate, it's positive for sure, because that way we can forecast what things are going to cost over the next few years," said Boulware.
For more information on The Southeastern Promise click here.