Colleges and universities are facing unprecedented budget cuts, which means they need money. Obviously, state lawmakers are aware of their plight — they should, considering the recent rallies and email campaigns.

Rep. Dee Richard of Thibodaux, who has no party affiliation, is among those who believe the Louisiana Legislature could come to the rescue. For example, lawmakers failed to advance legislation during this year’s regular session allowing higher ed to charge students more money based on credit hours, but 2011 could be an entirely new ball game.

That’s why Richard is resurrecting his own bill next year granting the additional authority. This year, his bill failed to get out of committee. “But now the universities are pushing it as one of the answers to their continuing problems,” Richard notes.

The original version of his legislation, found in House Bill 270, would have permitted the LSU System, Southern University System and University of Louisiana System to impose additional per credit hour tuition charges on students enrolled in more than 12 hours per semester.
The bill provided for certain waivers, a provision that will certainly be in any sequel. If such a bill passes the House and Senate, it would then need approval of the governor.  

Earlier this year, Richard said there were discussions about capping the number of eligible course hours at 15 — meaning the special charges wouldn’t be applied to 16 hours or more — but he wouldn’t include a cap in his 2011 legislation. “There’s support for this. A lot of people are protesting, and the community is getting involved,” Richard says. “This is something that should have happened two years ago.”

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