Friday, May 17, 2024

Despite funding increase, tuition got more expensive at LSU system schools

by BIZ Magazine

By Victor Skinner | The Center Square contributor

The Louisiana State University System reported an average net increase in tuition and fees in 2022 of 4.8%, at the same time taxpayers contributed 17.5% more than the year prior, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor reports.

Auditor Mike Waguespack last week issued an audit report on the Louisiana State University System for fiscal year 2022 that shows that despite the disruptions from the pandemic, LSU continued to report positive results overall by increasing its net position by $459 million.

That increase stemmed from an increase in operating revenues of $203 million and a $268 million decrease in operating expenses, which lowered the overall operating loss in 2022 to $162 million from $634 million in 2021.

“An overall increase in operating revenue of $203 million was driven by increases in several different revenue sources including student tuition and fees due to enrollment increases and online program expansion,” as well as other increased fees through the Ochsner Health System and contracts at LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, auditors wrote.

“Auxiliary enterprise revenues also increased substantially due to a return to normal activity in athletics, residential life, and university retail upon fully opening after COVID-19 closures,” the report read.

Overall, the system collected $2.3 billion in operating revenues in 2022, with about 50% from grants and contracts, 24% from net tuition and fees, 10% from auxiliary revenues, and 12% from sales and services of educational departments.

The LLA report shows the system collected $567.4 million in net tuition and fees, or about $25.8 million more than in 2021, an increase of 4.8%.

The higher tuition revenue flowed at the same time Louisiana lawmakers increased state funding for the system in a variety of ways, from employee pay to student scholarships.

“In the 2022 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature, the Legislature approved a historic investment for State universities and colleges, totaling more than $159 million, a 12% increase in higher education funding from fiscal year 2021-22,” auditors wrote.

“The state provided funding for faculty pay raises averaging three percent, as well as increases to the higher education funding formula,” the report read. “The Legislature also provided full-funding for the merit-based scholarship program, Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (‘TOPS’), and enhanced funding for the need-based program, GO Grants.”

The report noted that the state “is on a path toward recovery” following the pandemic, as evidenced by the Revenue Estimating Conference increasing the current year forecast for state general fund appropriations by $104 million in May 2022.

“While the economic picture for the State looks promising, the LSU Board of Supervisors remains optimistic about the economic prosperity translating into investments for the University and higher education in general,” auditors wrote. “The Board anticipates, based on recent efforts to protect higher education, that there will be no budgetary reductions through fiscal year 2022-23.”

The LLA found the system’s financial statements were fairly stated for 2022, and did not note any internal control deficiencies or noncompliance with laws or regulations for the LSU system as a whole.

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