A think tank has announced plans to create an institute to help the hurricane-devastated Gulf Coast by finding long-term solutions to issues such as flood control, housing, education and emergency response.

Seven universities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama are teaming with the California-based nonprofit RAND Corp. to conduct studies through the Gulf States Policy Institute.

While many groups have attacked short-term problems from hurricanes Katrina and Rita, not enough attention has been given to long-term challenges, RAND President and CEO James A. Thomson said.

Researchers plan to share their findings with local, state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"I'm convinced this institute will provide needed direction for a lot of us in government," said Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., who has complained about FEMA delays in providing housing for those displaced by the hurricanes.

The institute plans to seek roughly $5 million in annual funding from nonprofits, donors, government and the private sector.

The participating schools are University of South Alabama, Jackson State University, University of Southern Mississippi, Tulane University, University of New Orleans, Xavier University and Tuskegee University.