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|Tech school officials expect boost from Jindal plan|
Legislation recently proposed by Gov. Bobby Jindal should help grow enrollment at institutions like Louisiana Technical College Northeast Campus in Winnsboro, but officials say tuition hikes shouldn't grow out of control.
Last week, Jindal announced the LA GRAD (Granting Resources and Autonomy) Act. The plan would allow Louisiana's universities and colleges to decide when they could raise tuition, provided they meet performance goals, including upping graduation rates.
Since credit hours at the Winnsboro campus currently cost around $25, officials say an initial raise of no more than 10 percent allowed by the proposed bill shouldn't pose much of a burden for students.
Currently, schools in the state wanting to raise tuition must meet a threshold of a 2/3 vote of the legislature.
The proposal also calls for eliminating remedial classes in four-year schools, which would help community and technical colleges that offer such classes attract students.
"I think we are going to see an increase in enrollment, but there will have to be some money that comes along with it," said Norene Smith, regional director for the Louisiana Community and Technical College Systems.
Jindal's budget for this fiscal year maintains current levels of spending for higher education, welcome news for Louisiana's campuses which have endured reduced funding by $250 million over the past year and a half.
LTCTS has lost 10 percent of its budget, Smith said, which has forced officials to eliminate some positions.
The LA GRAD Act, to be handled by Speaker of the House Jim Tucker, R-Terrytown, would let schools raise tuition up to 10 percent per year until campuses reach the average of their peer institutions across the South. After that, tuition hikes would revert to five percent increases.
LCTCS has been able to offset revenue loss some by offering more online courses.
Schools in the system have seen a dramatic enrollment increase from the spring online students this year, up 43 percent from fall to spring with 424 current enrollments according to officials.
While some students still prefer commuting to out of town four-year universities, there are some like Ginger Southern who appreciate that she has the option to go to school at home in Winnsboro.
Southern, who is single with a 15 year-old child is enrolled in the Louisiana Technical College Northeast Campus' accelerated nursing program in which she can earn a degree within a year.
"It's a 12-month course and I'm 41 years-old," she said. "It was easier because it was close to home."