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Doling Out Katrina Relief

Doling Out Katrina Relief
February 9, 2006

Federal aid is on the way for Louisiana colleges and universities hit by Hurricane Katrina. But a bit of the money could face a delay.

The Louisiana Board of Regents announced Wednesday how $95 million in federal aid would be passed out. For $75 million, the board used a formula: About $25.1 million was distributed in three funds, with distributions based on enrollment, lost tuition revenue, and financial aid budgets.

The University of New Orleans, for example, had about 25 percent of the total full-time students at the 11 institutions receiving aid, so UNO will get about 25 percent of the $25.1 million from the enrollment pot.

Presidents of the institutions met twice with E. Joseph Savoie, commissioner of higher education in Louisiana, since Congress in December approved $200 million in aid for Louisiana and Mississippi institutions. Savoie said he relied heavily on their suggestions. Administrators generally seemed happy with the plan, and the amount of input they had in it. Mississippi did not have as much leeway, as Congress said its $95 million would be used for financial aid.

“I believe the formula was fair,” said Walter G. Bumphus, president of the Louisiana Technical and Community College System. “All of us have more needs than this will cover, but we’re greatly appreciative.”

Because Tulane University has a large student body and significantly higher tuition than any other institution -- 10,528 students; $31,210 -- it received the most aid, $14,855,554. The University of New Orleans was next at $13,988,768, and Delgado Community College, which received about 28 percent of the aid for students who had federal aid, was third, with $12,903,935.

Though the money was dispensed according to rigid categories, the institutions will now put together plans for how they actually want to use the money.

The physical damage an institution sustained was not considered in dispensing the aid, so Dillard University, which had only about 2,000 students but sustained the worst physical damage, received only about $4.8 million. Congress stipulated that the money could be used for student aid, faculty salaries, or any purpose authorized by the Higher Education Act.

Yvette Jones, senior vice president for external affairs at Tulane, said that there was talk of considering physical damages, but that administrators were worried it would be too difficult to determine the appropriate aid for damages. Some institutions  -- Dillard and Southern University in New Orleans -- have not even begun substantial rebuilding, and don't know what federal or insurance money may pay some of the bills. Administrators decided “it was better use numbers that were documented from past years,” Jones said.

Beyond the money directly to institutions, $8.5 million is set aside in the plan for student scholarships. “That is to encourage our students to come home,” Savoie said. About 22,000 students who were enrolled in Louisiana institutions are no longer enrolled, and about 20,000 high school seniors had their schools closed. “We want these students to enroll in Louisiana colleges in the fall.”

The impacted institutions will now have to craft a plan for setting up the scholarships. That process could delay allocation of the that portion of the money. On Feb. 17, the Louisiana legislature will meet to discuss approving the aid. If a scholarship plan is not crafted by then, that money may not be dispensed right away. Congress said that the money should be dispensed within 45 days of the Dec. 21 approval of the aid package.

Jones said that institutions suggested that the scholarship money be given straight to the colleges and universities. “We are in the scholarship business. We already do the needs analysis,” she said. “We thought we could get it out faster.” Instead, she added, they “may not see the benefits till next semester.”

Added Cynthia A. Littlefield, director of federal relations at the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities: “Time is of the essence. These institutions desperately need this funding.... To have any portion held up for any period is counterproductive to these institutions.” President Bush has said he will request $18 billion more in Katrina aid, and Littlefield said that higher ed groups will continue to try to get some of that for colleges and universities.

Several other “non-traditional institutions,” Savoie said, that were impacted were not assessed via the rubric, but will get some funds. Among them are McNeese State University, which will get $2.6 million, and the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, which will get $1.95 million.

$1 million was set aside to provide incentives in the form of extra pay for medical students to do their residencies in New Orleans. Around 5,700 doctors – including about 1,270 medical residents – evacuated the New Orleans area, and there might be as few as 1,200 doctors now in the area.

“Obviously, it’s a dire need,” Savoie said, “and hopefully this will work.”

Following are the grants that will go to the 11 institutions under the main part of the relief program.

Federal Funds to Help Colleges Hurt by Katrina

Institution Grant
Delgado Community College $12,903,935
Dillard University     4,752,363
Louisiana Technical College     1,906,054
Loyola University New Orleans     8,680,497
Nunez Community College     3,103,890
Our Lady of Holy Cross College     2,451,848
Southern University at New Orleans     5,114,963
Sowela Technical Community College     1,225,840
Tulane University   14,855,554
University of New Orleans   13,988,768
Xavier University of New Orleans     6,408,288

 

 

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