Thursday, April 18, 2024

Louisiana Higher Ed: Grants target state teacher, nursing shortages

by BIZ Magazine

By Piper Hutchinson, Louisiana Illuminator 

SLU gets grant to address teacher shortage 

Southeastern Louisiana University received a grant worth more than $900,000 from the U.S. Department of Education for teacher workforce development, aimed at helping address the state’s critical shortage of teachers. 

“At the U.S. Department of Education, we recognize the value of supporting our nation’s educators, and we have a responsibility to provide resources and opportunities that promote a diverse educator workforce,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a press release. “These programs help prepare, place, develop, and retain effective teachers and leaders in our schools and classrooms. Our students need quality educators now more than ever to address their academic and mental health needs.” 

Southeastern was one of 22 schools nationwide to receive an award. The funds, part of the department’s Teacher Quality Partnership grant program, totaled nearly $25 million for all schools. 

The grants were directed to undergraduate teaching and teaching residency programs in high-need communities. 

Nursing need

Northwestern State University and Southern University at New Orleans are the latest universities to receive grants from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation to address the state’s nursing shortage. 

 Northwestern received a $1.8 million grant, which will be matched with a $1.2 million in support from private partners and another $2 million from the university. The money will be used to expand NSU’s existing programs for transitioning paramedics, military medics and individuals with undergraduate science degrees to nursing jobs. 

“This grant from the Blue Cross Foundation further enables us to improve health care in rural or underserved communities,” NSU President Marcus Jones said in a press release. “As the demand for health care professionals is expected to rise, we are working to provide pathways for individuals to acquire the credentials they need to make an impact in their communities.”

Louisiana currently has several hundred open nursing positions. As much as 30% of the state’s current nursing workforce are expected to leave the profession in the next 10 years, according to Northwestern State. 

SUNO received a $432,000 grant, announced at a Friday meeting of the Southern University System Board of Supervisors. 

Kelly Smith, who chairs SUNO’s nursing department, said the grant will be used to make life easier for nursing students who often work while studying. The investment in SUNO’s program comes at a critical time, she added. 

“The 2020 pandemic has caused financial burdens and job loss for many families in our region,” Smith said. “Plans from this grant will clear fee bills and provide students with monthly stipends to cover transportation, food and other expenses incurred during the semester.”

LSU Alexandria defies enrollment trends

LSU of Alexandria reports eight straight semesters of enrollment growth. 

With a fall 2022 student population of 4,115, the student body grew more than 9% from a year earlier. The four-year university aims to enroll 5,000 students by 2025. 

“This consistent, sustained enrollment growth over a period of years is unusual at this time, and it speaks to the outstanding student experience here at LSUA,” Provost John Rowan said. “Students are seeing that our academic programs, our faculty, and our hands-on learning opportunities are unique and exceptional, helping them develop professionally while preparing them for life well beyond graduation.”

Amid a nationwide decline in undergraduate enrollment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, LSU Alexandria is one of the few universities reporting an increase in enrollment. 

“To be able to celebrate the eighth semester in a row of record enrollment – all during the challenges of COVID – and exceeding 4,100 enrolled students for the first time is historic and a tribute to the quality of the educational experience students are receiving at LSUA,” Chancellor Paul Coreil said in a press release. 

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