LSU president calls New York free tuition a ‘game changer’

BATON ROUGE – LSU President F. King Alexander says 17 budget cuts in nine years and the uncertainty surrounding TOPS scholarships are taking a toll on the LSU system.

“Part of those 17 cuts in nine years places us at around 46th in the country in per-student spending among 50 flagship institutions,” Alexander told the state House Appropriations Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education today (Apr. 4). He says out-of-state universities are luring Louisiana students with scholarships and poaching professors, too.

Despite those issues, LSU enrollment high. So, the president hopes he won’t be facing any more cuts.

One policy that could help is a free tuition program similar to the one in effect in New York. There, state and city universities are offering free four-year tuition for students of families that make no more than $100,000 and who promise to stay in New York after graduation. They would have to stay in-state for as many years as they received free tuition.

Alexander calls the New York plan a “game changer.”

“This is a great experiment that I hope we would entertain as we go forward,” he told the subcommittee.

There are several proposed bills in the current legislative session dealing with TOPS. One bill, House Bill 390 by State Rep. Gary Carter (D – New Orleans),  would reduce or cut scholarships for some students if the funding is not there. Another bill, House Bill 194 by State Rep. Gene Reynolds (D – Minden), would raise the GPA requirements to receive a TOPS award from 2.50 to 3.00 after the 2020-2021 school year.