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PAR Says Community College Cuts Costly

Thursday the appropriations committee, in its continuing effort to fill the hole in the health care budget for next year, cut a proposed $5 million increase to fund the growth at the state’s two-year colleges. While options are few, this is one which would have long run consequences.

A recent PAR publication analyzed the significant role higher education can play in the state’s economic development. It outlined the major structural shift in postsecondary education needed to accomplish the desired result efficiently and economically. The key to this restructuring is to have a larger share of future enrollments in two-year as opposed to four-year institutions.

Louisiana has only begun to develop a two-year college system and remains far behind the rest of the nation in this regard. The result is a higher education system that does not adequately meet the needs of students or the workplace and is costlier than necessary.

The proposed $5 million increase would help the community and technical college system manage its current growth and its expected 20% growth in enrollments next year. While the new students would pay tuition, tuition only covers 30% of the cost. In addition, state law limits the system to 3% increases in the tuition they levy.

The community and technical college system was caught off guard by the committee’s action. While this is a small cut relative to a $16 billion budget, it would seriously slow a development already long overdue. The cost to potential students and to the state’s economy in the long run would be significant. The cut, for example, would undermine the current effort to meet the shortage in nursing and allied health workers.

It is crucial to maintain the recent momentum toward developing a strong community and technical college system. The $5 million in funding for two-year colleges should be reinstated.

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