BATON ROUGE, La – Significant state investments in higher education coupled with federal recovery dollars have enabled Louisiana’s colleges and universities to increase faculty pay and improve affordability for students according to data presented to the Louisiana Board of Regents during its annual budget hearings. Additionally, forecasts from the State Legislature’s Chief Economist and the Commissioner of Administration indicate federal support resulting from the pandemic has allowed the state economy to bounce back quickly despite several employment sectors, including mining, manufacturing, and hospitality.
“Higher education has fared better than it has in the past decade and a half in terms of funding when looking at overall increases in funding formula dollars, faculty pay, and mandated costs,” said Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne. “You should focus on being more vocal and active with legislators about stressing the importance of deferred maintenance because it’s an area where you need more resources. Continue to share data and information, because we will have one-time money, and advocate for using those dollars at our colleges and universities. The more higher ed speaks with a unified voice, the more successful you will be,” emphasized Dardenne.
For fiscal year 2021-22, higher education saw a historic investment of state funding, amounting to a $175.7M increase. More than $80M in additional state general funds allowed for increases in faculty pay ($19.8M), support for growth in mandated costs such as retirement/health insurance/risk management ($18M), and additional funding formula allocations for equity performance ($14.3M) as well as other strategic investments. Financial aid programs also expanded, helping students to afford college through need-based aid/GO Grants ($11M), performance-based aid/TOPS ($10.2M), and a newly created option for adult learners, the M.J. Foster Scholars Program ($5M).
“Our colleges and universities remain a critical strategic asset in our state’s recovery from multiple disasters over the past years, including catastrophic hurricanes and a global pandemic,” said Commissioner of Higher Education Kim Hunter Reed. “We know that an investment in our people allows them to get the education and training necessary to weather life’s storms, both economically and in terms of quality of life, and rebound quickly. Budgetary support from Governor John Bel Edwards and the Legislature has allowed our institutions to invest strategically in students, faculty, and research to support recovery and build a better future for Louisiana, and for that we are grateful.”
Highlights from the four higher education system budget presentations include:
- ReBoot Your Career Program used $10M in federal pandemic dollars to graduate 5,200 students (most who were unemployed) in short-term certificates in five high-demand fields. These students are now back at work, returning an estimated $14M in tax collections to the state in just one year.
- SOWELA has moved from being devastated by Hurricane Laura in August 2020 to being back on its feet and producing a workforce for Southwest Louisiana in less than a year.
- LCTCS lost 20% of enrollment due to pandemic; Hurricane Laura, Zeta and Ida caused 10-15% enrollment reductions at impacted schools. Full enrollment recovery is anticipated by Fall 2022.
- Industry is competing for faculty in community and technical colleges, so faculty pay must be a continued priority to support training for the state’s workforce needs.
- LCTCS supports a dual strategy of creating a strong policy environment and spending limited state resources to meet the goals of the Master Plan. LCTCS indicates it can produce half of the completers necessary to get to the annual goal of graduating 85,000 adults with a postsecondary degree/credential by 2030.
- LCTCS is paying close attention to congressional consideration of federal adult financial aid that could match the state’s new adult financial aid program (M.J. Foster Scholars).
Southern University System:
- All campuses are receiving reaffirmation of accreditation by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC); Southern Law School is up next for review.
- Southern University System ranks 7th nationally among fundraising and giving for HBCU’s.
- Total enrollment has grown by an aggregate 3% over the last 3 years; Projected enrollment for the Fall 2021 is 13,367 systemwide, increasing by 344.
- Southern University System is prioritizing faculty/staff pay to assist with retention and competitiveness for FY23.
- New residential facilities and Student Union are coming soon to the A&M campus.
Louisiana State University System:
- “Best of epidemiology” COVID experience has led into the fall, with vaccine/testing entry requirements, Tiger Stadium entry requirements and wastewater testing leading to a 2.6% positivity rate on campus.
- $1.1M in FY22-23 will be invested to hire new staff around Title IX and Power-Based Violence issues with continued investments anticipated. Thanks to Regents for professional development opportunities during summer 2021.
- LSU is committed to expanding its research footprint around STEM, Data Sciences, Computational Science, Artificial Intelligence, Coast/Energy/Environmental Sciences, and Cancer and Biomedical Research.
- Maintaining and enhancing the statewide AgCenter Cooperative Extension presence is a focus.
- Because every dollar brought in through research brings $2.85 dollars in economic/workforce development, the state received an estimated $1.036B in revenue last year from LSU.
University of Louisiana System:
- Grambling State University is enjoying a renaissance in academic programming, especially criminal justice.
- Louisiana Tech asked by Air Force Global Strike Command to anticipate COVID impact on military bases across the globe.
- University of Louisiana at Monroe is receiving a grant to look at rural resource opportunities.
- Northwestern State University is selecting a new campus president and graduated more than 700 nurses last year.
- McNeese State overcame Hurricanes Laura/Delta and is 95% operational.
- University of Louisiana at Lafayette produced $164M in federally funded research around vaccine safety and efficacy.
- Nicholls State was 50 miles north of Hurricane Ida’s landfall but sustained only limited damage.
- Southeastern Louisiana University is using deep thermal wells to heat and cool buildings and has one of the best maintenance crews in the state, which removed more than 200 trees damaged during Hurricane Ida.
- UNO is leading new research on socially engineered cyber-attacks.
- Compete Louisiana has enrolled 5,000 adult students, who have been out of college for two years or more, now working on completing degrees.
Regents will consider its FY 2022-23 operating budget during its regular meeting tomorrow, September 22, 2021. That action will complete the final step in the FY 2021-22 budget cycle.