The Louisiana Board of Regents listens to a speaker. (JC Canicosa/Louisiana Illumiantor)
The Louisiana Board of Regents voted Wednesday to request a $220 million budget increase in state funds next year, which they said would target pandemic and hurricane recovery “while also increasing the overall education and training levels in Louisiana,” according to a press release from the board.
The state’s higher education budget in the current fiscal cycle is $1.17 billion. So the request would amount to a 20 percent increase in state higher education spending.
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If granted, the additional funding would come on top of the nearly $100 million increase in Louisiana public universities and colleges received in the current budget cycle. The schools have also received hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government directly to help cope with the COVID-19 pandemic over the last two school years.
The request will go to Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Louisiana Legislature, who then decide on the budget at next year’s legislative session.
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The budget increase would pay for raises for professors “in an effort to retain and recruit top faculty” as well as a four percent raise for other higher education staff — which combined would cost $75 million. Higher education faculty and staff also received pay raises last year, though Louisiana’s university employees still make less on average than their peers in other Southern states.
The budget request also includes an additional $5 million in Title IX Office — the office that handles sexual harassment and discrimination cases — support funding. The extra money would pay for more staff, expanded resources for investigations and prevention programs at Louisiana universities.
Ten million dollars of additional funding of GO Grants — a need-based grant program for students — as well as $9.3 in additional funding for the Tuition Opportunity Program for Students, a merit-based scholarship that tens of thousands of Louisiana students use each year — are also included.
The board is also asking for about $200 million in funding for “deferred maintenance” on campuses, said Chris Herring, assistant commissioner for facilities.
The board has about a $1.6 billion backlog on facilities projects, so the $200 million in funding for “deferred maintenance” would only cover about 12 percent of that funding need, Ginn said.
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