Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has plans to increase state colleges and universities funding with next year’s budget. The plan comes after several years of proposals containing financial cuts or flat spending at public higher education institutions. In the announcement the governor said he had plans to push for a $142 million increase for Louisiana higher education.
“This is a tremendous step forward for the financial recovery of higher ed,” said Clinton “Bubba” Rasberry, chairman of the Louisiana Board of Regents, which manages public higher education in the state.
Julia O’Donoghue of The Times-Picayune writes that a good portion of the higher education budget comes from student tuition increases. The governor will not suggest using the tuition hike to counteract other budget cuts; instead the schools will be allowed to keep the added tuition as revenue in addition to state funding they have already received.
Also in the proposal are plans for workforce development and high profile research. The $40 million allocation is officially called Workforce and Innovation for a Stronger Economy (WISE) fund and is planned to support higher education programming more efficiently in Louisiana’s job market. WISE funding will target professional and labor skills that companies need from the workforce in Louisiana. In order for the colleges and Universities to receive money they will have to use the funds to develop professionals or skilled workers in areas where the state is currently seeing a shortage.
“This plan is about the future that we want Louisiana to have 20 years from now,” said Sandra Woodley, president of the University of Louisiana system.
Schools that receive part of the funding will also have to find private investments or other federal funding for their initiatives. This money must cover at least 20% of the program’s costs before they are allowed access to the WISE money. This funding can be cash or in-kind donations.
LST plans on using WISE money to increase graduates in the fields of engineering, computer science and business. They plan on partnering with IBM and Shell for investment support.
The higher education funding is a positive reflection of the state funding overall. This is the first time in 6 years Jindal has not proposed mid-year budget cuts because of low revenue.
“The best friend that government has is a strong economy,” said state Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, a sponsor of the bill that will set up the WISE fund.