Federal COVID-19 relief could help Louisiana higher education avoid budget cuts this year

Published: March 7, 2021

By: Adrian Dubose and Lauren Cheramie, LSU Manship School News Service

Dr. Kim Hunter Reed, the commissioner of higher education, said Louisiana universities are getting by during the pandemic with the help of increased federal and state funding.
Dr. Kim Hunter Reed, the commissioner of higher education, said Louisiana universities are getting by during the pandemic with the help of increased federal and state funding. Photo courtesy of Dr. Kim Hunter Reed

BATON ROUGE — After losing hundreds of millions of dollars in the COVID-19 pandemic, Louisiana’s public universities are hopeful that three rounds of federal relief packages and a proposed $56 million increase from the state will enable them to avoid budget cuts this year.

Universities and colleges faced significant revenue losses and additional expenses as a result of the pandemic. The LSU, University of Louisiana and Southern systems also had to cope with a $21.7 million cut in state funding last year.

Education officials feared that they were going to lose ground again in the coming budget year after more than a decade of financial instability.

But they are now optimistic that the state will invest more in education and that another aid package in Congress will help keep them whole.

Gov. John Bel Edwards presented his t spending proposal to the Legislature on Feb. 26. He called for a $56 million increase l for higher education, including $19.8 million for faculty pay raises. This would be the first statewide raise in 13 years, though some universities have granted several pay hikes of their own along the way.

Edwards’ proposal also includes full funding for TOPS scholarships, an $11 million increase for the need-based financial aid known as GO Grants and $15.6 million to cover mandated cost increases like pension benefits for retired educators.

“Increasing affordability through a historic investment in need-based aid, raising faculty pay, and improving the stability of our institutions allows our colleges and universities to meet the education challenges of the moment,” Dr. Kim Hunter Reed, the commissioner of higher education for the Louisiana Board of Regents, said in a statement.

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