Higher Education Funding for Worker Development

Apr 1, 2014

The House Appropriations Committee advanced a bill establishing the WISE (Workforce and Innovation for a Stronger Economy) Fund on Monday. The proposal, authored by House Speaker Chuck Kleckley and now headed to the House floor, sets up a system to pay bonuses to colleges that turn out graduates prepared to fill the high-demand jobs soon coming to Louisiana. Colleges will also have to come up with a 20 percent match from private firms in order to be eligible for a portion of the $40 million fund.

Appropriations chairman Jim Fannin asks how soon Louisiana can expect results from the fund.

“Give me a real timeline as to what this means in putting people to work, so the revenue picture in this state could improve,” Fannin queried Board of Regents chairman Clinton “Bubba" Rasberry.

“It’s not a moving target, because there is a day when the welders and technicians must walk through the gate, prepared,” Rasberry replied. “Two years for that, maybe?”

The earliest workers will come out of community and technical colleges, and the WISE Fund won’t start paying out to colleges till after graduated have gone to work in the new jobs. For universities — which will be preparing engineers and accountants, for example — that means at least four years until they can tap into the bonus dollars.

Rasberry assured the committee members that the WISE Fund will be used wisely.

“I can assure you there will be no dollars spent within WISE — from the Board of Regents’ standpoint— unless it’s producing results, and then results that produce tax revenue.”

The WISE Fund has been touted by the Jindal administration as “new state investment in higher education.” The Louisiana Workforce Commission will identify the jobs and degrees needed to make it work.