Rebuild around Colleges

Collection

Andre Perry

Rebuild around Colleges\r\nBy Dr. Andre Perry, Contributing Columnist, Louisiana Weekly, December 12, 2005 \r\n\r\nFormer Presidents Bush and Clinton came to the University of New Orleans campus on Wednesday, December 7, to announce how they plan to distribute Katrina relief funds of $110 million. While this generous donation which were garnered from corporate, individual, and government donors, will provide a small financial boost to Louisiana\'s massive rebuilding efforts, the University of New Orleans and Xavier, in particular, scored equally important political and symbolic lifts in the battle for needed higher education funding. The universities also took advantage of the Presidents\' visit to state that \"colleges and universities can be a cornerstone of New Orleans\" rebuilding efforts.\r\nThe financial package stemming from the Bush/Clinton Katrina Fund included $40 million for the Governors of Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. Thirty-four of the effected postsecondary institutions will receive $30 million. Bush and Clinton also announce that faith-based organizations will receive $20 million. A six-person board will oversee the distribution of funds.\r\nAs a general rule, state-level financial crises do not bode well for colleges and universities. Postsecondary institutions in emergent situations do not rise to a level of budgetary importance equal to housing, security, and primary utilities. Gov. Blanco\'s latest proposed cuts hit higher education is testament to this.\r\nIn addition, rising costs in health care and prisons have detracted funding from the historically secure higher education enterprise. Moreover, our K-12 woes take away attention and finances from our colleges and universities. As a result, higher education in most states is on the discretionary rolls of the budget. It is one of the first areas to be cut during times of economic exigency.\r\nDespite their production and overall contribution to the city and state, colleges and universities face an uphill fight for funding. Blanco\'s recently proposed $71 million cut from the higher education rolls means that institutions will generally have to reduce 6 percent or more from their budgets. That translates into layoffs since approximately 70 percent of all revenue goes toward personnel costs.\r\nPostsecondary institutions in the Gulf Coast region lost approximately $1.4 billion due to physical damages to their campuses. The Louisiana State University System estimated that rebuilding cost for the teaching hospitals, Charity and University Hospitals, would exceed $907 million. Moreover, millions of dollars in tuition, which generally accounts for a third of colleges\' revenue sources, were lost due to the estimated 18,000 students who were displaced.\r\nState resources for postsecondary education have been declining nationally in recent years. Few states see budget increases for higher education. College leaders have been forced to seek funds from federal and corporate sources. More often than not, universities offset declining state allocation through tuition increases. This is not surprising news. However, given the New Orleanian context, why not build around our colleges?\r\nIn a city without a Fortune 500 company, colleges and universities employ a lion\'s share of the region\'s workers. Tulane, UNO, Xavier, Delgado and our technical colleges not only prepare our workers, their staffs make up a large portion of the middle class. In addition, these institutions often provide health care, retirement plans, and professional development opportunities to their blue-collar staff members. Our universities\' professors, physicians, lawyers, secretaries, and grounds keepers helped sustain a relatively fragile economy partially based on tourism.\r\nThe reduction in higher education spending also compromises our health-care infrastructure.\r\nA report offered by the current City Director of Maternal and Child services stated that approximately 1,000 students were enrolled in Delgado\'s associate degree, practical nursing and certified nurse assistant (CNA) programs prior to Katrina. Some CNA students continued in many of Louisiana\'s technical college campuses. Even though 129 senior associate degree students - Level 4 - returned on October 3 to Delgado\'s West Bank Campus to continue their studies, students in Levels 1-3 could not because of a lack of space, faculty, and clinical settings.\r\nAccording to the City Health Department report, LSU Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC) in New Orleans has prepared nearly three-quarters of the health care professionals practicing in the State of Louisiana. LSUHSC medical, dental, nursing, and allied health faculty care for hundreds of thousands of Louisiana\'s medically indigent and uninsured. Charity and University hospitals in New Orleans are the system\'s major teaching hospitals, which serves not only the population of New Orleans, but also patients from throughout Louisiana.\r\nThe maximum award an institution can receive from the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund is 1.5 million, which is a relative a drop in the bucket given their losses due to physical damages, tuition, and state cuts. However maybe the Presidents\' historic visit can help political leaders realize the value of higher education.\r\n\r\n\r\n

Citation

“Rebuild around Colleges,” Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, accessed May 19, 2022, https://hurricanearchive.org/items/show/33265.

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