By David Jacobs | The Center Square
Louisiana’s public colleges and universities will receive $147.1 million through the federal CARES Act, the U.S. Department of Education says.
At least half of the money must be dedicated to emergency student support. Eligible expenses include food, housing, course materials, technology, health care and child care.
School officials can use the rest to cover their costs associated with changing how they deliver instruction amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Campuses have been closed since mid-March.
The Louisiana Board of Regents that oversees higher education met online Wednesday to formally adopt policies implemented in response to the pandemic, such as setting admissions criteria after standardized tests were canceled. They also approved additional changes such as authorizing existing degree programs to be offered entirely online.
The Regents have established a Digital Inclusion Committee that will help prioritize spending of some of the CARES Act money to address “Louisiana’s well-established digital divide.” About 90 percent of students have engaged with the digital platforms needed for their coursework but many lack reliable access to high-speed internet, a committee survey found.
Strategies to address those concerns include using low-tech distance learning including recording lectures and printing packets for pickup. The Regents also are providing surplus laptops and a statewide map showing where to go to find free public wifi for “drive-in studying opportunities.”
“So far, these stop-gap measures have proven extremely successful and the survey gives us great hope that students are persisting and adapting,” Commissioner of Higher Education Kim Hunter Reed said. “We know our talent development imperative is not paused during a pandemic. In fact, it is amplified.”