By MELINDA DESLATTE
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) _ The roadmap was decided Monday for divvying up a $40 million higher education incentive fund designed to steer money to programs that help fill high-demand jobs.
A council of Louisiana college, economic development and labor officials approved the distribution plan to split the money among the four college systems from the Workforce and Innovation for a Stronger Economy, or WISE, Fund.
After weeks of behind-the-scenes work and haggling over dozens of possible ways to divide the cash, the formula was approved without objection and with little discussion.
The LSU System, which has the state’s flagship university and two public health sciences centers, will get the largest share, at $14.4 million.
“We’re very satisfied. Now we just have to get to work on making sure that we’re doing what’s expected of us and that our university does play a significant role in building the economic capacity of Louisiana,” said LSU System President F. King Alexander.
He said the system’s main campus in Baton Rouge plans to use much of the money to hire 20 to 25 new faculty members, mainly in engineering and computer science. Other dollars will be used to pay for equipment.
The community and technical college system will get nearly $12 million, while the University of Louisiana System will receive $11.4 million. The Southern University System will get $2 million, the lowest level a university system could receive.
Southern President Ron Mason said he believed the distribution plan was fair to the historically black college system, which is the smallest among the four higher education systems in Louisiana.
“We’ll take the money we have and do the best we can with it,” he said.
Gov. Bobby Jindal and lawmakers set aside the money three months ago 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 in most 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.
The individual higher education systems must devise plans for spending their allotment of cash and get approval of those plans from the WISE Council and the Board of Regents.
All campuses aren’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.
In addition, the schools and Regents have to work through strings attached to some of the WISE Fund dollars. For example, $12 million is federal hurricane- recovery money that can only be spent in certain parishes, needs federal approval and must be tracked to show it was spent properly.