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2014 December 19 - 05:31 am

Cash from La. Incentive Fund To Start Flowing

$40 Million Workforce Fund Intended To Foster Partnerships

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Money from a $40 million higher education incentive fund should soon begin flowing to campuses after the Board of Regents signed off on spending plans submitted by the college systems.

Approval from the regents’ executive committee was the final step before schools could receive the money. Barbara Goodson, chief financial adviser for the regents, said the campuses should be able to draw funds within a few weeks.

The dollars from the Workforce and Innovation for a Stronger Economy, or WISE, Fund will be used to bolster programs that fill high-demand jobs in Louisiana.

Lawmakers earmarked $3.5 million to specific projects. The remaining money was divvied up through a formula decided by a council of Louisiana college, economic development and labor officials.

“The strategic direction that our institutions are moving in, as outlined in the plans, will be greatly beneficial to the future of our state,” regents Chairman Clinton “Bubba” Rasberry said in a statement.

The LSU System gets the largest share of the formula money, at $12.9 million. The Southern University System gets $2 million, the lowest amount. Community and technical colleges will get $12 million, while the University of Louisiana System will receive $9.5 million.

Though the dollars aren’t certain to appear year after year, many campuses intend to use the money to hire faculty and pay salaries. Other dollars are slated to buy equipment, computer software and supplies.

LSU plans to invest $3.5 million in financial aid programs for needy students at its flagship campus and its Health Sciences Center in Shreveport will use $1 million for an expansion project. The University of Louisiana System will spend $1.9 million of its funding for scholarships across eight of its campuses.

“We are training Louisiana citizens in programs such as process technology, electrical, computer science, construction trades, welding and engineering technology to fill the workforce gap,” Monty Sullivan, president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, said in a statement.

Regents will have to work through strings attached to some of the WISE Fund dollars as it doles out the money. For example, $12 million is federal hurricane recovery money that can only be spent in certain parishes and needs federal approval.

Gov. Bobby Jindal and lawmakers set aside the incentive money earlier this year for college research and training programs that will fill high-need jobs, tied to projected workforce demand.

The distribution formula is based on forecasts of which skills are most in demand across the state, along with consideration of which systems can produce the degrees and certificates in those fields, such as computer science and petrochemical-related jobs. Dollars also were set aside for sought-after research.

All campuses weren’t guaranteed to receive money. Schools have to work with private businesses to get a funding match of at least 20 percent, either through cash or donations.

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