By Bruce Alpert
Three financially hard-pressed historically black New Orleans colleges have received modifications for their Hurricane Katrina federal loans that will save the schools an estimated $200 million or more.
The announcement Friday by the Department of Education will provide major financial relief to Dillard University, Southern University at New Orleans and Xavier University, all of which have struggled since Katrina devastated their campuses.
A measure, added by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., to a 2012 spending bill, enabled the Education Department to modify the loans so that the schools can take advantage of the current low interest rates.
According to Landrieu's office, the schools have been paying off the loan principals and interest, but have struggled as enrollment levels have yet to return to pre-Katrina levels.
"These loan modifications will remove a serious economic burden, allowing these schools to invest more in their students and facilities," Landrieu said.
Officials from the three schools thanked Landrieu for crafting a legislative fix for their economic problems.
"Hurricane Katrina devastated Dillard University and the surrounding Gentilly community," said Dillard University President Walter Kimbrough. "Dillard has six feed of standing water inside its buildings, several of which caught fire. When others suggested that New Orleans and Dillard not be rebuilt, given the level of destruction, Mary Landrieu led the way not only to rebuild and restore Dillard, but to bring our campus back better than ever."
Also benefiting from the refinancing is Tougaloo college in Mississippi.