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LA Lawmakers Challenge Higher Ed to Meet Workforce Needs with $40M Incentive Fund

June 02, 2014

A project underway between IBM and Louisiana State University’s School of Engineering aims to better meet employer needs by tripling the number of computer science graduates in five years. Hoping to generate more partnerships like these, lawmakers approved legislation supported by Gov. Bobby Jindal that allows colleges and universities to compete for funds in an effort to produce graduates in high-demand areas. A smaller percentage of the funds distributed under the new Workforce and Innovation for a Stronger Economy (WISE) Fund will be based on federally funded research expenditures. 

HB 1033 establishes the WISE Fund within the state treasury and outlines responsibilities for a strategic planning council, operating as an independent subcommittee of the Board of Regents. 

The recently approved FY15 budget allocates one-time funding of $40 million, $11 million of which is included in the capital budget. Ongoing funding is subject to appropriation by the legislature each fiscal year. Colleges and universities competing for the funds are required to secure a private match of at least 20 percent, which can include in-kind donations of technology or intangible property such as internships, scholarships, sponsorship of staff or faculty, or faculty endowment. Funds are distributed by the Louisiana Board of Regents.

The bill also outlines a method of distribution for the funds. It requires 80 percent of funds distributed be based on degree and certificate production in fields defined as high demand. The remaining 20 percent will be based on federally funded research expenditures as defined by the National Science Foundation. The focus of the initiative likely will be on STEM fields, according to reporting from the Capitol News Bureau. 

Louisianastate budget, workforce, higher ed