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LSU System consolidation, excising best scenario

Comments by Gov. Bobby Jindal appear to map out the direction a major part of higher education governance, and related to that organization of the state’s charity hospital system, will take beginning soon.

Jindal voiced support for combining the top job at both the Louisiana State University system and at its largest entity Louisiana State University Baton Rouge. The system oversees four campuses that award degrees all the way from associates to doctoral in many fields, other campuses dedicated only to graduate degrees in professional areas, specialized research-only institutions, and two systems of charity hospitals. Presently, the same individual on an interim basis holds both this system presidency and the chancellorship at LSUBR.

Earlier this year, outside advocacy groups and some members of the entity that governs the system, the Board of Supervisors, indicated a desire to implement a “one LSU” concept, which essentially would bring the disparate parts of the system under the authority of LSUBR. Instead of them operating as separate institutions, in essence they would become parts of LSUBR. The professional schools would become separate colleges, the research institutions managed by LSUBR, the other teaching campuses satellites of the Baton Rouge campus, and the hospitals now also run by it.

Indisputably this would bring about economies saving taxpayers millions of dollars. It also jives with the direction of the charity hospital system, dismantling. Perhaps at most three hospitals more than just shells eventually would remain, where the focus would be on medical education, so this consolidated academic agency would not have to distract itself with running a health care provision business beyond what was needed to support medical education.

Jindal’s statement seems consistent with his plans about the charity system, and that, occurring not long after discussion of “one LSU” became public, he appointed members to the Supervisors meaning all members except the student one having been put there by him, no doubt they share his sentiments on this issue. Thus, it seems clear that one of the options identified by consultants brought in the past year to study governance issues, the creation of something like “one LSU,” will be pursued.

However, too much zeal for one LSU will become problematic unless modifying the notion that Louisiana State University Alexandria, Louisiana State University Eunice, and my institution Louisiana State University Shreveport will serve as satellite campuses. Currently, they have their own governance over programs and separate scope and missions designed not just for statewide needs but also their regions of the state.

Introducing the “one LSU” concept would transfer governance to Baton Rouge and seems to be incompatible with separate scopes and missions for each as they become auxiliaries for providing education connected to a flagship institution covering statewide needs. This also introduces some ambiguity and inefficiency as they cannot be run as colleges, schools, or institutes as can the other system parts. In their cases, if anything, unlike with the other parts subject to consolidation even more potential conflict and confusion would occur than now happens.

Thus, the clearest solution would be to excise the three from the LSU System. Why LSUE has stayed in the system as the only community college for a decade when an entire separate system governs all but one other community college is a testament to territorial urges; it should be transferred to the Louisiana Community and Technical College System. LSUA in its present configuration should be sent to the University of Louisiana System, although an even better use of taxpayer resources would be to make it a community college again as it was a decade ago as part of a solution to a currently overbuilt higher education system, and also put it in the LCTCS.

Placement of LSUS may provide the biggest challenge. Its scope and mission makes it the regional provider for northwest Louisiana, but difficulties in fulfilling that then made it a target for merging with Louisiana Tech University, a half-baked idea the response to which was having LSUBR collaborate more closely with the institution in provision of both resources and programs, already marking a step towards a consolidation. To move LSUS out to the ULS also would create the odd situation of having an LSU campus, the LSU Health Sciences Center Shreveport, five miles down the road from a ULS campus.

The same situation now exists in New Orleans, where the former LSU system member the University of New Orleans now operates not far from the LSU Medical Center (in its temporary form), but UNO, even in a depleted condition, has much more institutional capacity than does LSUS, justifying schools from different systems in reasonable proximity. Still, while an argument could be made that synergies exist between the two schools that justify merging, such as in sciences education, other areas of education are so much of a reach, such as the large teacher and business education output of LSUS befitting a large urban area, that separate existences in two different systems still seems to be the best option for both delivery and taxpayers’ sakes.

On the whole, the “one LSU” idea with the apparent plan for charity hospitals represents a marginal improvement over the current system. Remove LSUA, LSUE, and LSUS from it, and it becomes definitively better. We can be optimistic that the version as is gets implemented. We can hope that a version releasing the three regional schools ends up as the scenario pursued.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Absolutely no personal bias in this blog, purporting to explain what is best for everyone!!!!!!!!!

Where I come from,we call that "having no shame."