Louisiana’s public colleges and universities will receive $147.1 million through the federal CARES Act, according to an announcement by the U.S. Department of Education.
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.
Schools can use the rest of the amount to cover costs associated with changing how they deliver instruction during the shutdown, which started in mid-March.
The Louisiana Board of Regents, which oversees higher education in the state, met online Wednesday to formally adopt policies implemented in response to the pandemic, like setting admissions criteria to enter college after standardized tests were canceled and authorizing existing degree programs to be offered entirely online.
The Regents also established a Digital Inclusion Committee to 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 the digital divide include using low-tech distance learning like recording lectures and printing packets for students to pickup. The Regents also are providing surplus laptops and a statewide map identifying where students can 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.