Formerly inmates in Louisiana could soon access higher education funds

A Louisiana House committee advanced a bill Wednesday to expand who can access a financial aid program for high-demand workforce education programs.
The House Education Committee unanimously approved House Bill 728 by Rep. Paula Davis, R-Baton Rouge. It would allow people convicted of violent crimes to access the M.J. Foster Promise Program, a financial aid program that allows students to pursue an associate degree or short-term credential in a high-demand occupation.
The bill also lowers the age for initial qualification from 21 to 17.
Davis’ bill enjoys wide support from a variety of organizations, including the powerful Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, which lobbies for business interests, and the Louisiana Parole Project, a nonprofit that aids the formerly incarcerated.
“The small amount we invest in a person’s education generates positive returns as opposed to the significant costs our communities bear when someone with no skills and no opportunities cycles through our justice system,” Andrew Hundley, executive director of the Louisiana Parole Project said in a statement to the Illuminator.
Rep. Barbara Freiberg, R-Baton Rouge, noted that expanding access to educational opportunities to formerly incarcerated people is especially important after last month’s special session on crime, which expanded criminal penalties and lowered the age for consideration as an adult in the criminal justice system.
“There is no doubt that jobs reduce crime,” Hundley said. “And providing men and women who are trying to turn their lives around with opportunities to obtain skills through career and technical education is a win-win.”
The M.J. Foster Promise Program, which was named after former Gov. Mike Foster, offers funds that can be used at LSU Eunice, Southern University Shreveport, Louisiana Community and Technical College campuses and at a small number of in-state private institutions. The program currently targets education in the fields of information technology, manufacturing, construction, transportation and health care.

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