As the two bills to merge Southern University New Orleans and the University of New Orleans begin wending their ways through the legislative process, it’s helpful to recognize the insufficiency of contentions made of those who oppose them.
These bills, HB 537 by House Speaker Jim Tucker and SB 183 by state Sen. Conrad Appel, in many respects parallel recommendations made by a special committee hired by the Board of Regents to study the matter by request of Gov. Bobby Jindal. But they do vary crucially in that they would dissolve both organizations and merge them into one, as opposed to the board’s recommendation of separate units sharing infrastructure and some tasks. This has brought up one genuine issue, about whether the new entity would qualify as a Historically Black College and University, making it eligible for federal funding in the form of grants to support financial management, physical plant renovations and improvements, endowment building infrastructure, and academic resources.
State higher education officials disagree on that status (the definition of one from the Higher Education Act of 1965 being “any … whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary [of Education] to be a reliable authority as to the quality of training offered”). And whether the federal dollars truly support the mission of providing quality education to students is debatable (such as with this example). But whether a combined school is one it might be a moot point according to the arguments of supporters of the bill.
They contend that, regardless of the source of money, if not used efficiently it won’t be effective to the educational mission.