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The board that oversees public higher education in Louisiana on Wednesday agreed to allow financial penalties for universities that violate board-mandated admissions standards.

The Board of Regents will have the ability to reduce state funding to an institution that exceeds its quota of “admissions exceptions” for two consecutive years.

The board allows schools to admit a small number of students who don’t meet the standard criteria, reasoning that GPA and ACT scores don’t always show the full picture of a student’s potential. But LSU, which as the public “flagship” has the highest standards, admitted almost twice as many students “by exception” than was allowed, according to an audit of the fall 2018 entering class.

Under the new policy, an institution that lets in more students by exception in a given year could have its number of allowed exceptions reduced the following year. Exceeding the limit two years in a row would allow the Regents to reduce the school’s share of state general fund money. The reduction would require board action.

An institution that exceeds its limits for three consecutive years could lose formula funding plus an additional reduction in state general funds equivalent to tuition and fee revenue based on the number of admissions that exceeded the limit.

Campuses would have the ability to remove students who show early academic success from the exceptions list.

The Regents considered the new policy last month but delayed action, saying they wanted to discuss it with campus and system officials. LSU’s representative on the board said Wednesday that the flagship supported the policy and would adhere to it.

In other discussions Wednesday, the Regents heard state campuses have a combined maintenance backlog of more than $1.5 billion, including about $953 million at LSU system campuses and $361 million at University of Louisiana campuses. Higher education leaders are hoping for an influx of state surplus dollars to address some of the most urgent needs.

Priorities for the legislative session that begins March 9 include a “truth in borrowing” measure to ensure students fully understand how much debt they would have before taking on a student loan. A similar measure in Indiana encouraged students to take on less debt, the Regents heard.

Higher education leaders also want to extend their ability to raise fees without lawmaker approval. That authority, previously granted by legislators, is scheduled to expire this year.

The board reviewed a study looking at the feasibility of a new law school in the Shreveport/Bossier City area, which would be expected to cost almost $15 million to build and $5 million annually to operate. While the Regents said a new law school wasn’t needed, they pledged to support a comprehensive analysis of graduate program needs in the region.

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