LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s top higher education board is asking for $192 million more in state financing for public colleges next year, even as the state will be grappling with a $1 billion shortfall.
The Board of Regents approved the request Thursday, seeking to bump up state financing for higher education to nearly $1.2 billion in the 2018-19 fiscal year that begins July 1.
Under the Regents’ proposal, most of the dollars would flow directly to the four public college systems, which were repeatedly hit with state financing cuts for nearly a decade.
Money also is being requested for online textbooks, computer upgrades and targeted financing for research and specialized institutions, such as the agricultural centers and medical schools. Nearly $38 million would boost the Go Grants program that provides needs-based aid for college students.
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Regents’ staff say the colleges actually need much more money than is included in the request, but described anything above the $192 million as an unrealistic explanation.
Already the budget boost requested likely is a long-shot as Gov. John Bel Edwards and lawmakers haven’t agreed upon a method for closing the $1 billion-plus gap in the 2018-19 budget. Higher education may be struggling simply to hold onto dollars that schools currently receive without taking a cut, as lawmakers build next year’s budget in the 2018 legislative session.
In addition to the $192 million annual increase, the Board of Regents also is asking that $53 million from last year’s expected $120 million state surplus be spent on building maintenance and repairs for public college campuses. The surplus dollars are limited in how they can be used, including to pay for one-time expenses such as construction projects.