Reducing the price of going back to school

Reducing the price of going back to school

High tuition costs and low funding for need-based aid—resulting largely from cuts to state support of higher education—have put a college diploma out of reach for many low-income Louisianans. For adults with some college but no degree, this has often meant debt, with little advantage to show for it. As Brooks Kubena reports in The Advocate, the University of Louisiana System is taking steps to make re-enrollment more accessible for Louisiana adults, by lowering the cost of tuition.

(UL System President Jim) Henderson said the vast number of people with incomplete degrees developed over time. As the burden of paying for college shifted from state appropriations to students through tuition and fees, “we have substantially priced so many would-be college graduates out of the market. Because of price,” Henderson said, “they’re unable to get that credential that will open so many doors.” According to the system’s study, there are 64,563 adults in East Baton Rouge Parish who have earned some college credit but did not complete their degree. There are 68,849 such adults in Jefferson Parish, and 58,968 in Orleans.


Covid-19 in lockup
Social distancing orders have helped to slow the spread of Covid-19 in Louisiana. But for the thousands of people incarcerated in the state’s prisons, jails and ICE detention centers, social distancing is not an option. Being born into poverty dramatically increases the likelihood that a person in America will face incarceration. Now, as AP’s Janet McConnaughey reports, nearly every person incarcerated in one Louisiana prison dorm has tested positive for the virus:

As of Monday, 192 inmates had tested positive, including 66 who had symptoms, according to Department of Correction statistics. The unit has about 195 inmates, though the number fluctuates, Pastorick said Monday. The chart showed 41 dormitory staffers diagnosed with COVID-19 but did not indicate total staffing. Pastorick said he would check on the total number of staffers and whether all were tested.


Medicaid is essential to the Covid-response
Medicaid expansion has been critical to keeping Louisiana’s rural hospitals open, and to helping the state’s low-income population access medical care. But without additional federal help, Louisiana may face tough decisions about funding this vital program at adequate levels. A team of public health policy experts at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains how Congress should support Medicaid in additional Covid relief packages, keep states solvent and people healthy.

In its next COVID-19 response bill, Congress should include additional FMAP increases that, as the bipartisan National Governors Association has urged: (1) automatically adjust to meet need based on the depth of the downturn; (2) continue until the labor market (and thus state budgets) have truly recovered; and (3) apply to costs incurred for people covered through Medicaid expansion. Additional FMAP increases should also incorporate strong MOE protections for beneficiaries. The FMAP proposal in the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act (H.R. 6379), which House leaders introduced on March 23, meets all these principles; Congress should quickly adopt this or a similar policy.


Hunger on the rise
Nearly 1 in 3 American nonelderly adults who have been affected by job loss, reduced hours or a loss of work-related income because of the Covid-19 pandemic, have had trouble affording nutritious food since the crisis began, according to a recent survey. This rise in food insecurity has been particularly hard on families living near or below the federal poverty line. The Urban Institute’s Elaine Waxman outlines the steps we can take to help ensure that families continue to have access to nutritious food during the coronavirus recession:

Federal and state policymakers have taken action to ramp up the federal nutrition program response to the pandemic. But the extent of material hardship suggests a very robust response will be needed for a very long time—well beyond the official end of the public health emergency. Potential policy solutions include: Further boosting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for all households (…), extending nationwide waivers permitting schools and other organizations to provide flexible assistance to families with children through existing child nutrition programs (…), supporting broader implementation of Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) (…), waiving SNAP work requirements for college students (…), and avoiding implementation of rules that would restrict access to SNAP.


Number of the Day
-20,236,000 – Change in seasonally adjusted U.S. non-farm employment from March to April (Source: ADP National Employment Report)