Baton Rouge, LA (FOX44) — Local universities struggle with budget cuts every year, and students are forced to pay more to attend class. But this past year, LSU's Board of Supervisors gave away more than a million dollars in free tuition.
For the first time, the university is required to publicly release that information.
"This is the first step in people knowing what's going on," said State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge).
The boards for LSU and Southern University both offer scholarships, and have for many years. Sen. Claitor said he heard about them accidentally, and figured many other people did not know about them. He was only somewhat surprised the information was not made public. He did not suspect any malfeasance when he wrote his bill, which passed through the legislature and was signed by Gov. Bobby Jindal last month.
"People tend to behave more appropriately in the light of day than they sometimes do in the shadows," he stated.
Seventeen members of LSU's board (including former president William Jenkins) gave out nearly 200 scholarships to the various campuses at a total value of approximately $1.3 million. Twenty nine went to out of state students, and those cost about $20,000 a year.
The names of each board member, and each student they gave scholarships to, are now public, so anyone can see if there are personal connections involved.
"Louisiana is a small enough place that, if I'm awarding a scholarship to my neighbor," Sen. Claitor said, "that people will see that, recognize that, and point that out."
The criteria for an LSU scholarship are good grades, special talent, and financial need. Each incoming freshman is required to have a 2.3 GPA, which is lower than the TOPS scholarship, while upperclassmen are required to maintain a 2.5 GPA. While that standard may appear low, Sen. Claitor believes grades can be a poor measuring stick.
"I know from personal experience," he said, "that a better-than-average student, or a average student, or a slightly-below-average student can still make a huge contribution with a little bit of help."
About half of the recipients of the LSU Board of Supervisors scholarships are in grad school, which Sen. Claitor attributes to their having exhausted their TOPS benefits and seeking out a new avenue to continue their education.
"Anybody that happens to be watching the [news] that's thinking about going to one of the LSUs, I would encourage them to apply for them," he said. "They're there."
Board members receive a few applications each month. They may award up to 20 scholarships a year, though none chose to use the full allotment in 2012-13. John George and Stanley Jacobs each granted 19, which was the most
Southern has not yet disclosed the number and value of the scholarships its board members granted last year. The deadline to do so is until August 1.
To read LSU's scholarship report, click the link below.