Higher ed legislation moves forward on Southern University Day at Capitol

Higher ed legislation moves forward on Southern University Day at Capitol

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - At Southern University Day at the Capitol, the school has a message for lawmakers and they're making it loud and clear.

"Today is an opportunity to let the legislative bodies at work know just how much this university means to Baton Rouge, to New Orleans, to Shreveport, to Louisiana and to the entire United States," said William Broussard with the Southern University President's office.

Meantime, inside the Capitol, Louisiana's public colleges and universities are one step closer to setting their own fees after a bill passed a committee.

The House Education Committee approved HB 152 by Rep. Chris Broadwater, R-Hammond, without objection. It will next go before the full House for debate.

"You can't have state support for higher education plummet as it has and put them in death spiral and not throw out a lifeline at some point," said Rep. Broadwater, (R) Hammond.

Supporters call the bill a "lifeline" for schools facing potentially hundreds of millions in cuts with the budget crisis. The bill would let higher education institutions, instead of the legislature, raise and lower fees.

Schools would have to put aside five percent of that money into a fund for helping some students with financial aid.

Joined by the board of regents, the state's higher ed commissioner and LSU's president, Broadwater said it is time to do something to save schools.

"If we don't make sure that we get serious about funding higher education and maintaining an educated electorate, then Louisiana's got serious problems," Broadwater said. "Not five years down the road because of our revenue forecast, but we've got problems 50 years down the road."

An LSU junior was also at the meeting to support the bill. Andrew Mahtook says university administrators know what their students and schools need better than legislators do.

"I'm confident that if the school and the management boards were able to control fees, that they would be in direct talks with the students," said Mahtook, LSU student body president.

In response to cuts over the past few years, LSU tuition has been raised ten percent, but it's president says that money has gone to the state, not its campuses.

"Let's show the legislature that we're here to stay. That what we do is important. And that the work that we do is work that needs to be done now and for the next 135 years. God bless the jaguar nation," said Southern University President Ronald Mason.

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