Several pieces of legislation concerning tuition and fees at Louisiana public universities are being considered by both the Louisiana House and Senate.

All of these proposals seek to take the power of tuition and fee hikes out the hands of the legislature and put them in the hands of the universities. Currently any changes in tuition and  or fees must be approved by lawmakers.

The concept of letting the state's public universities have control over their own purse strings has been advocated by the higher education community for years. Leaders of the state's universities have gone on record as saying that because of budget cuts and the uncertainty over TOPS funding these institutions need more control over their finances and budgets.

In a story published by reporter Julia O'Donoghue on there is an outline of how each piece of legislation would change the current structure for tuition and fees across the higher education landscape in the state.

House Bill 586 would allow for tuition and fee hikes after 2019.  But only if the increases in tuition and fees would still remain lower than those of similar institutions across the South. There is also a stipulation that the colleges and universities seeking these hikes had a higher graduation rate than other peer institutions.

House Bill 439 would allow for an increase in tuition of 10 percent in one year. The bill would also make allowances for an increase of 20% based on a four year period. The major stipulation in this bill is how it relates to Louisiana's TOPS program.  Under this proposal tuition may not be increased for any student attending classes while being funded by that program.

In the Senate, Senate Bill 80 was approved April 20th. This legislation would call for a constitutional amendment that would remove control of tuition and fees from legislative approval and give it to the colleges and universities. The caveat in this legislation is that you and I, the voters of Louisiana, would have the final say so in the voting booth before this measure could become law.

This is the first time in many sessions that the legislative body has seemed to react in a positive manner to request by public colleges and universities to gain control over their own financial destiny.  The debate is far from over but needless to say it has begun in earnest. That could be because the handwriting is on the wall for the TOPS program as we have come to know it. Those changes in TOPS dollars could be the breaking point for many of our state's colleges.