Jay Dardenne (copy)

Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne.

The 2022 financial outlook for colleges and universities is "pretty good" amid a massive influx of federal aid, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne told the Louisiana Board of Regents Tuesday.

"We think we are going to be performing pretty well," Dardenne said during the first day of budget hearings for spending that will be mapped out next year.

State aid for colleges and universities rose by about $175 million earlier this year, a rarity after 13 years of budget cuts or standstill budgets.

Dardenne, who is Gov. John Bel Edwards' chief financial lieutenant, said colleges can expect the governor will recommend money for mandated costs next year and "hopefully" a hike in state aid for operations.

He said it is too soon to tell whether pay raises for faculty will be part of Edwards 2022 budget recommendations.

Dardenne also said Edwards will continue to advocate for using onetime surplus dollars on deferred maintenance at college campuses.

The hearings Tuesday were the start of a process in which the Board of Regents reviews funding requests from LSU, Southern University, the University of Louisiana and others.

Those recommendations are then reviewed by Regents and the Edwards administration before budget proposals are debated by the Legislature.

The 2022 regular legislative session begins March 14, 2022.

Dardenne and Greg Albrecht, the Legislature's chief economist, credited the massive amounts of federal aid to combat the coronavirus pandemic with keeping higher education and other services on solid footing.

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Dardenne said the three rounds of federal aid are unprecedented since President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal in the 1930s to help overcome the Great Depression.

"They are putting money in our treasury," he said of federal officials.

Colleges and universities collected $723 million from the three rounds of federal aid, including $55 million for LSU and $101 million for Southern University.

Historically Black colleges and universities were targeted for special assistance during the pandemic.

Albrecht said the state lost the equivalent of $6.8 billion in wages and salaries in 2020 but collected $31.5 billion in federal aid.

"That is why we have done so well," he said.

Albrecht said the two highest paying wage sectors – mining and manufacturing – have lost 2,200 jobs and 4,800 jobs respectively since April 2020.

He said manufacturing will stabilize at around 30,000 jobs compared to about 50,000 before the pandemic began 18 months ago.

"We have some pluses, but we have some negatives in really important sectors," Albrecht said.

Dardenne said the surplus from the financial year that ended June 30 could total nearly $700 million.

About $200 million of that amount would have to be put in Louisiana's Rainy Day Fund, with the rest available next year for capital outlay and related spending.


Email Will Sentell at wsentell@theadvocate.com.