BATON ROUGE, LA (FOX44) — Governor Bobby Jindal announced proposed plans to increase funding for higher education Tuesday at a press conference on LSU's campus in Baton Rouge.
"Our budget for the next fiscal year will increase state general funding for higher education and increase total higher education funding by $141.5 million dollars. A 6.6 percent over last year. That would bring total funding for higher education to $2.3 billion," Jindal said. "The funding that I've announced will include a new higher education workforce incentive fund of $40 million that will better allow Louisiana students to compete in the global economy."
The proposed budget will still have to be voted on and approved by state lawmakers this upcoming legislative session. However, higher education leaders say the potential increase in funding for higher education and funding for the 'Workforce and Innovation for a Stronger Economy ' or 'WISE' plan is a big step to train students for growing number 'skilled worker jobs in Louisiana.
"The Wise program is an innovative fund that is set up to encourage institutions to produce more graduates in high demand fields of study that we know are going to build Louisiana and the regions economy," F. Scot Alexander, President of the LSU Systems and LSU Chancellor, said.
"It incentives our schools, our two year schools, our four year schools, our research institutions to meet the needs of companies that are growing here... that are coming here," Jindal said.
The Office of Louisiana Economic development ,the Louisiana Workforce Commission, the Louisiana Board of Regents, the University of Louisiana System, The Louisiana State University System, the Southern University System,the Louisiana Community and Technical College System teamed up to create the WISE plan.
"Funds will be available to state research institutions that produce nationally recognized commercial research, and to state colleges and universities that produce graduates in 4 or 5 star job ready degrees," Jindal described. "This performance based formula rewards and incentives degrees that occupational forecasting and industry have shown are the most employable and the most in demand. "
Jindal explained, "To receive these funds institutions will partner with private industries by recruiting at least a 20 percent private match in cash or in kind such as technology and equipment."
Schools would have to team up with a business, and in turn the business would have to invest in high demand degree programs like business and engineering programs.
"It will create more slots in high demand fields in engineering and business any stem and science fields of study," Alexander said. "...to allow those students much wider range of opportunities a wider range of courses to chose from, because we'll be able to hire more faculty in these needed areas. "
LSU students said getting more money for higher education is a welcomed change. Some students said they've had trouble getting into classes, and don't have as many course options because of previous cuts.
"If this money is coming in and they build more classes for it. They can bring in more teachers. Even more well qualified teachers it would help and more people would get a better education," Chinedum Emelobe, a freshmen chemical engineering student at LSU, said.
"Any more money for education, as someone who is in college, it's always helpful. Just for more opportunities in the future. If we can get more students at this university with more options it will always help in the future," Erica Llyod, senior animal science major at LSU, said.
Alexander said the proposed extra money for higher education would give new sense of stability.
"It gives us a degree of stability that we haven't had in the past. We know that we are not going to be budgeting for cuts. We're able to keep and utilize our tuition dollars and put it into the classroom. At the same time we'll have money to put towards these high demand fields and high demand areas.
Jindal said he would reveal more of the proposed budget plans on Friday.