Arts and Living Editor
The recent surge in registration fees at NSU has brought forward a resurgence in understanding the cost of higher education, especially in Louisiana.
With constant dread surrounding funding for TOPS and beyond, higher education is a balancing act with an ever-echoing question which touches every aspect of the state.
If the state is not paying the brunt of higher education, who is?
“Louisiana, among other southern states, have this tradition of people who are not college educated,” Frances Conine, dean of students, said. “We want more people to go to college.”
According to Conine, NSU is very aware of the large demographic of first-generation and Pell-Grant-eligible students aiming for betterment though higher education.
“20 to 25 years ago the state paid about 75% of what it costs for a student to be educated at an institution of higher ed,” Conine said. “That’s flipped flopped now. Now the state is paying about 25%, and the institution or the student has to pay.”
Conine noted the importance of finding scholarships to help students in their struggle for higher education due to the severe decline in reliance on state funding.
“We struggle to find money to help students go to school,” Conine said. “We struggle to have viable programs.”
Conine is hopeful with the stability in recent years with Louisiana’s education. There are still adversities that result from keeping up with mandates and competing with other schools for students and faculty.
Jana Lucky, director of enrollment management, also believes that the hardships have caused NSU to be more driven towards goals and come together. She recounted the decision made by NSU four years ago after TOPS was cut by 41.08% to fund students as a university in TOPS’ place for that upcoming semester.
“I’ve heard them talk about that they felt that was a promise the state had made to the student, and it wasn’t fair for the student,” Lucky said. “It was important, and I think Northwestern in general has been very in tune with what was the right thing to students for students.”
Lucky stated that others have noted how NSU’s faculty truly care and are invested in their students.
“Our staff are so genuinely interested in students’ success and graduating students,” Lucky said. “Watching them come in and then blinking and seeing them walking across the stage is something we all want, and I think it shows.”
With a general decline in college graduates across the nation, Lucky discussed how Louisiana’s main revenue is produced by technical jobs and oil rigs.
“I think the state is really pushing for more technical workers, and that’s another hurdle for us,” Lucky said.
This is a fact reflected in the state’s constitution.
“One of the things about Louisiana that people don’t realize is in our constitution […] things that are not protected are health and hospitable and higher education,” Lucky said.
And while the universities of Louisiana and faculty have always understood and felt the effects of these decisions, Logan Turner, NSU graduate student Master of Science and Clinical Psychology, believes the increase of higher registration fees to be an eye-opening experience for students.
“In a perfect world I would like to think students feel Louisiana has their back and higher education has their back,” Turner said. “We don’t really like to think about that because we’re all students, and if we do it’s because we’re being made extremely aware of them.”
Turner said that not many students take into consideration the extent of paying for college.
“There’s a pressure, and a lot of students don’t realize it,” Turner said. “They don’t realize where that pressure is really coming from. They just know it’s there.”
Turner regarded that laced between each book, registration fee and class there is another monetary gate to overcome.
“They will tell us, you know, like the Starbucks, that we helped fund that or that we helped fund the Chick’fil-A or the Steak ‘n Shake,” Turner said. “But they also don’t tell you that you’re funding the school to basically stay alive.”
Turner believes NSU should be more transparent with their budget and fees and how they apply to the university at large.
“I just want NSU to do better for all of us,” Turner said. “I know we can’t change anything, and I know NSU has to go by the books of the budget that Louisiana gives them. If we can’t give these students the opportunity to succeed, we might as well be labeled as a private school.”
Despite the pressures and uncertainties which line their way, Turner has faith in his peers.
“I do think that a lot people who come from adversity want to better themselves,” Turner said. “A lot of these students facing these adversities are going for a degree, and they are going to go for it whether someone tries to stop them or not.”