Students react to tuition increase

HAMMOND- The 10 percent increase in tuition this semester to raise $4 million for operating costs has Southeastern Louisiana University students left wondering how their money is being spent.

Students say they are frustrated because they are not seeing any significant changes.
Junior, Jacob Rester disagrees with reducing the budgets of universities statewide and does not see how it will help in the long run.

“I believe the state of Louisiana should do everything it can to continue to educate what is already an under-educated public,” said Rester. “I am upset that the state allowed the universities to increase the tuition for the students, knowing that many students are struggling in these tough economic times already.”

Jeffery Pohlmann, a graduating senior majoring in communication at Southeastern, believes the university is lowering the quality of education by cutting activities and jobs.

“How can someone charge more for a lower quality product and at the same time try to convince students that it’s making the campus better,” he asked.

In Fall of 2009, the cost for a full-time student taking 15 hours was $1,827.30 and for a non-Louisiana resident the cost was $3,628. Since then, the tuition has climbed to $2,014.80 and $4,234.50 for non-residents.

Anna Johnson, from Denham Springs, is a senior at Southeastern and works part-time to pay her tuition each semester without loans or financial aid.

“As a college student, a 10 percent increase is a lot especially if you pay for school by yourself like I do,” said Johnson. “They should use the extra money to benefit everyone, such as building more parking lots.”

Public information officer Rene Abadie said the money has to pay increased operating costs such as fringe benefits, retirement funding and utilities. The state budget cuts have already pushed the university to cut over 100 positions, eliminate the undergraduate French and French education degree programs and cut travel allowance.

“It’s making it harder for many to attend college,” sophmore Harold Gibson said of the tuition increase. “In most cases, when an institution raises prices they plan on expanding the school or funding extracurricular activities, but it doesn’t seem that way here at Southeastern.”

“I don’t think it’s a good idea because for the increase, I’m not seeing any changes,” said Kayla McLain, a freshman living in the dorms. “The walk ways constantly flood.”

Jackie Dale Thomas, director of leadership development/student activities at Southeastern, remembers in the early 80s when the oil boom ended in Louisiana. That financial crisis produced the same scenario the university faces today. A tuition increase was also imposed then, but it was minimal compared to the latest hike.

“This is the worst I’ve ever seen,” said Thomas. “But we lived through that, so we can live through this.”

“What the 10 percent increase did was allow us to keep our doors open to make up for the difference for what the state has cut from us,” Thomas said.
Pohlmann is worried about the increased standards and how it will affect the number of students able to enroll.

“If we raise admission standards too high, then the cost of attending Southeastern is going to sky-rocket beyond 10 percent,” he said. “The fewer the people that attend college are going to have to bare the load of supporting the university’s expenses.”

The admission standard before Fall 2010 was either a 20 on the ACT, a 2.0 grade point average or top 50 percent of the high school graduate class. The new standards are 21 on the ACT, a 2.5 grade point average or top 25 percent of the high school graduate class.

In his last semester at Southeastern, Aaron Gutekunst, a Covington native, offers a different take on the admission standard increase and thinks it will help the school recover from budget cuts.

“I just hope that scholarships and TOPS goes up with it,” said Gutekunst.

Universities across the state signed an agreement under the LA Grad Act issued by the legislation that granted them an automatic five percent increase. The newly enacted LA Grad Act also allows Southeastern and other universities to tack on another five percent tuition increase if they sign a six-year agreement to improve graduate rates, admission standards and productivity.

If the university falls short of these requirements, then the opportunity to increase tuition will be rescinded.

“It’s like a contract between the university, the Board of Regents and the state,” said Rene Abadie, public information director at Southeastern.

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