LSU

LSU's Baton Rouge campus

Louisiana public schools and colleges and universities are in line to get a new round of aid from the latest federal stimulus package after landing $484 million earlier this year.

Public schools received $287 million in May and higher education $147 million from the $2.2 trillion federal CARES Act, and divided another $50 million that was left to the discretion of Gov. John Bel Edwards.

The legislation that congressional leaders agreed on Sunday night totals about $900 billion. The compromise still faced final votes in Congress Monday night.

It includes $23 billion for colleges and universities nationwide and $54 billion for public schools.

Louisiana could be in line to get up to $1.6 billion under the latest package, according to officials familiar with the issue. That includes $1.19 billion for public schools and $385 million for higher education.

Both figures are tentative.

A spokesperson for the state Board of Regents said Monday the office was not ready to announce how much is expected.

A spokesperson for the Louisiana Department of Education said officials in that office are awaiting details.

LSU got $19 million from the earlier round, tops in the state.

Commissioner of Higher Education Kim Hunter Reed and Jim Henderson, president of the University of Louisiana System, said Monday money to pay for coronavirus testing during the spring semester is a key need.

Federal officials are making weekly tests for the virus mandatory.

"For us to get ahead of this we will have to do widespread, continual testing," Henderson said.

Henderson oversees a system that includes about 92,000 students and nine schools, including the University of New Orleans, Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

About 214,000 students attend colleges statewide.

Monty Sullivan, president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, said enrollment is down 10% nationally and 12% in Louisiana. "That translates first of all into thousands of people who are not enrolled in college but wish they could be," Sullivan said.

The initial round of federal aid resulted in LCTCS getting $10 million to retrain 5,000 men and women who lost their jobs during the pandemic – called "Reboot Your Career."

The training is mostly limited to 12 weeks or less and is aimed at allowing students to enter jobs with room for advancement. "So many people have been impacted so we spent our time focusing on short-term training," he said.

The legislation would also simplify the form students have to fill out to land federal dollars – called the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

It would re-launch "Second Chance Pell," a long dormant program that makes inmates eligible for Pell Grants, which provide aid for college attendance based on financial need.

Under the first round of aid for public schools, ensuring students had access to laptops or tablets and internet access were top priorities amid the sudden move to distance learning.

Most public school students have their own devices today but 27% of students lack home internet access.

A total of 65% of public and private students are attending in-person classes, according to the state Department of Education.

The rest are relying on virtual learning or a combination of in-person and virtual classes.


Email Will Sentell at wsentell@theadvocate.com.