July 12, 2016 02:50 PM

Photo by Tom Murphy VII/Wikimedia

As voters prepare to decide on the Nov. 8 ballot whether university systems in Louisiana should be allowed to set their own tuition, officials on the community and technical college level have already made a decision not to increase rates.

The constitutional amendment on the fall ballot applies only to four-year colleges and universities. Lawmakers approved the proposed amendment during their regular session earlier this year.

Sen. Blade Morrish, R-Jennings, who authored the proposed amendment, said Louisiana and Florida are the only states that do not provide university systems with autonomy on this issue.

Proponents contend years of budget cuts have brought education officials to this point and future autonomy could help them better address budget shortfalls.

The Louisiana Community and Technical College System Board of Supervisors, meanwhile, recently announced it will not impose a tuition increase for the 2016-17 school year. This marks the first time in five years that LCTCS students will not face a tuition increase.

The LCTCS board will not be affected by the proposed constitutional amendment, but its action may be an early sign of what happens when the governor and Legislature pass a budget that funds higher education close to the same level as the previous year.

“After years of increasing tuition, the board felt this was the right thing to do for our students,” LCTCS Board Chairman Woody Oge. “Despite rising costs, we have an obligation to uphold our mission of open access and workforce development.”

The LCTCS board, however, did approve a set of new fees that students will have to pay. There are two “policy-driven fees” based on national “best practices,” an excess credit hour fee and a compressed program fee.

The latter relates to programs that are required to meet the immediate workforce needs of business and industry in high demand.