Louisiana No. 3 in nation for higher education cuts, report says

Louisiana No. 3 in nation for higher education cuts, report says

While higher education funding is shrinking nationwide, a new report shows the rate of decrease in Louisiana is the third highest in the country despite a sharp increase in tuition revenue. The State Higher Education Executive Officers, a nonprofit association of chief executive officers for postsecondary education, detailed the figures in its annual "State Higher Education Finance Report."

Louisiana Commissioner for Higher Education Jim Purcell hopes the report will boost his argument for overhauling the state's higher education funding system.

"At a time when we need to be investing in higher education, higher education funding is at risk," he says. "What we should be doing is giving additional investment in that sector so that we can prepare for the additional skilled workforce we're going to need."

According to the report, total revenue for higher education in Louisiana was down 10.2% in 2012. The decline is attributed to a 25.4% decrease in state and local appropriations—the second-highest drop in the country, behind New Hampshire.

The decrease in state and local funding was partially offset by a 31.4% increase in tuition revenue, which is well above the 8.3% national average. Only California institutions increased tuition revenue more than Louisiana. Purcell, who is a member of SHEEO, has proposed giving state colleges and universities more leeway in setting their own tuition rates. Enrollment of full-time students also declined in Louisiana between 2011 and 2012 by 1.1%, according to the study.

Barry Erwin, president of CABL, says institutions have worked to shield students from the funding cuts. Still, he says, students are seeing larger class sizes and fewer class offerings, and they're having a harder time getting into classes. Figures in the study reflect cost-of-living adjustments. You can check out the complete study here.

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