Audit: Louisiana near bottom in state support for colleges; student burden rises

A recent audit found that decreased state support for Louisiana public colleges and universities, and the subsequent fee hikes enacted by those institutions over the past decade, has increased students’ financial burden and made it more costly to get a higher education degree or other credentials.  

The Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s report examined how fee increases impact the affordability of going to college in Louisiana. According to the report, direct state support per enrolled student for Louisiana’s public higher education institutions decreased 42.8%, from $6,062 in fiscal year 2010 to $3,467 in fiscal year 2020. Those figures do not include TOPS scholarships or Go Grants.

Louisiana now ranks last for two-year institutions and second to last for four-year institutions in terms of direct state support per student in the region, according to the Southern Regional Education Board’s data on its 16-member states.  

Meanwhile, fees assessed to students have increased 154.6%, from an average of $1,168 per student in the 2009-2010 school year to $2,975 for 2019-2020. Fee increases have outpaced inflation by 113.5%. 

The Legislative Auditor estimates that while 33.6% of Louisiana-resident students have sufficient financial resources to cover the increased fees, the other 66.4% will face an additional $157.6 million in unmet need ($4,657 per student) over a four-year undergraduate enrollment. As a result, students must meet these costs from other sources, such as employment income, parent loans, or private student loans, among other options.  

The audit recommends Louisiana’s higher education system boards consider instituting a process, similar to a sunset review, to determine if fees are still warranted and whether schools are using them as intended. See the report.