The novel coronavirus has infiltrated people’s minds and devastated many lives, but it may also be jeopardizing higher education funding from the state.

District No. 36 Louisiana Rep. Philip Tarver from Lake Charles offered his predictions on the pandemic’s effects on higher education funding.

“Higher education is always the one that gets hit upside the head every time we have a budget issue,” said Tarver.

He thinks that state universities may receive a lack of funding for capital projects such as renovations on decaying buildings like LSU’s Middleton Library.

“Capital projects might take on a little less prominence and importance in a year or two until we know what is going to be happening budget-wise,” Tarver said.

As upgrades for the university may be unobtainable at this time, Tarver also thinks legislators may need to redefine the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, TOPS.

TOPS is the state scholarship program for Louisiana residents. The program awarded over 52,000 students with scholarships from 2018 to 2019 based on opportunity, performance or honors.

“This will be almost be an opportunity to reshuffle the whole thing and say let’s just stop to take a minute to rethink this whole thing, what we really want to do with TOPS and what is our real intention,” he said.

Whether they will discuss these objectives in the Legislative Session and whether they will crucially impact higher education remains uncertain. However, Tarver believes that reopening universities as soon as possible would be significantly beneficial. 

“Getting in business and doing business and operating is more important than preparing for the next 10-15 years right now,” Tarver said. “I’m not saying we don’t do that. We do need to keep that in mind.”

As LSU released its Phase 1 Return-to-Campus Plan Thursday, strategies for reopening campus to critical employees is the first step in a hopeful direction.

The plan states that only critical employees approved by Emergency Operations Centers are allowed to access campus. Employees must follow all CDC and government guidelines, and the university advises employees to wear face coverages and maintain a six-foot distance from others.

Non-approved EOC employees must remain teleworking from home, according to Phase One. Student affairs such as the UREC, the Student Union and the Bookstore remain closed.