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May 25, 2010 3:46 PM Louisiana Policy

By Daniel Luzer

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From Louisiana comes news that its state legislature is considering altering the authority state colleges have over tuition. According to an Associated Press article by Melinda Deslatte appearing in The Times-Picayune:

The Louisiana House will debate a proposal that allows public colleges to hike their tuition costs for students if the schools improve their performance, after the House budget panel advanced the idea Monday.
The measure would let schools substantially raise what they charge students-up to 10 percent a year for six years-if the colleges meet certain performance standards.

Louisiana House Speaker Jim Tucker(R) sponsored the bill, which Gov. Bobby Jindal(R) supports. If the bill passes,

Colleges would have to increase admission standards, improve graduation rates, eliminate programs with few graduates and improve their efforts in getting students into jobs. Remedial classes would disappear at four-year schools, along with most associate degree programs, in an effort to steer students to less expensive community colleges.

This doesn’t really seem like the most effective incentive system, however. College costs, both public and private, already rise too fast; letting colleges charge more tuition shouldn’t be the carrot states use to drive performance enhancements.

Like Louisiana, in many states public universities don’t have the authority to set tuition. This perhaps just as well, because the obvious temptation would be to close the gap between what the school gets from the state and what the school wants to spent by increasing the tuition students and their parents pay.

Policymakers in Louisiana are understandably worried that their public colleges have low graduation and high remediation rates. But this solution won’t help the students at all. “Rewarding” public colleges by letting them charge more than the cost of instruction is perverse. State colleges and universities exist in order to provide the state with well-educated citizens at low cost to those citizens. There’s another way to fix the problem.[Image via]

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer