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Business and Policy Areas
Business and Policy Areas

Two Years After Katrina: Federal Support Still Inadequate

September 4, 2007

At the end of the first quarter of 2007, foreign nations had supplied more monetary support, $131 million, to restore Hurricane Katrina-affected higher education institutions in Louisiana than the U.S. Government, which supplied $120 million, according to a new report from the Southern Education Foundation. With an additional Congressional appropriation to Louisiana and Mississippi in May 2007, federal funding -- assuming equal distribution between Louisiana and Mississippi -- will just match what foreign nations donated to support Louisiana institutions' restoration. 

Two years after Katrina, the Southern Education Foundation has released a report, Education After Katrina: Time for a New Federal Response  that provides an in-depth analysis of the current condition of K-12 education, higher education, and child care in the affected areas of Louisiana and Mississippi by using government data, independent surveys, and other sources. The report concludes that federal support of this region's educational system, including recovering colleges and universities and those institutions that temporarily enrolled displaced students, is inadequate.

According to the study, barely 2 percent of all federal dollars committed to disaster relief in Louisiana and Mississippi went to support education recovery, and money from the U.S. Department of Education specifically for Katrina-affected education made up less than 2.5 percent of the department's expenditures over the last two years. For a broader context, the study offers that the total federal funding for education recovery equals the amount spent for 10 days of funding the Iraq War. Or for every $2.5 billion spent for other federal purposes over the last two years, the federal government found $1 for education in Katrina-affected regions.

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, more than 75,000 college students in New Orleans were displaced due to their institution closing. Almost 15,000 college students in Mississippi had their semester affected. In support, colleges and universities took in large numbers of these displaced college students. Federal dollars, a total of $10 million, were provided to institutions that enrolled displaced low-income students, but it is estimated that these institutions collectively spent $75 to $125 million of their own institutions' resources to assist and educate students -- regardless of income -- in fall 2005.  In 2007, 26,000 college students in Louisiana public institutions were still not in school and 9,000 college students in Mississippi are estimated to remain unenrolled or have dropped out.

The study provides detailed information on the federal response to education, inequities in funding distribution, effects on student enrollment and learning, and higher education physical damage and enrollment losses. The full report is available for download on the Southern Education Foundation Web site.