SMITH: Quantity Over Quality In Louisiana Higher Ed Could Even Get Worse

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by William Smith, who’ll be authoring a series of posts on the duplication, waste and shenanigans to be found in the Louisiana Revised Statutes.

Steve Jobs once said that “quality is more important than quantity.” When it comes to higher education in Louisiana over the last century, the state legislature usually believed the opposite.

In 1955, there were ten public colleges and universities in Louisiana. These schools were LSU, Southern, Northwestern State, Louisiana Tech, UL-Lafayette, Grambling State, Southeastern Louisiana, UL-Monroe, McNeese State, and Nicholls State.

The following year, the Legislature passed bills to create Louisiana State University in New Orleans (now known as the University of New Orleans, or UNO) and Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO).

Politics is a copycat game at times. Just as Huey Long talked about making “every man a king”, members of the Legislature during this time seemingly wanted to have a public college in every district. It looked for a while like the Legislature would achieve that goal.

The Legislature approved plans to create LSU Junior Colleges in Alexandria in 1959, Eunice and Shreveport in 1964, and in St. Tammany Parish and in northeast Louisiana in 1966. They also approved a two-year college in Shreveport for the Southern University System in 1967.

Most of these colleges were opened and continue to operate today. LSU-Eunice and Southern-Shreveport (SUSLA) operate as two-year colleges, and LSU-Alexandria, LSU-Shreveport, UNO, and SUNO operate as four-year colleges.

Today, there are 16 two-year and four-year public colleges and universities, two law schools, and two medical schools in the State of Louisiana between the LSU, Southern, and University of Louisiana Systems. If the Legislature had their way back in the 1960s, that number would be even higher today.

There are two LSU Junior Colleges which were authorized by the Legislature in 1966 yet never opened. One was the proposed junior college in St. Tammany Parish. The other was the proposed junior college in northeast Louisiana – more specifically, located in Catahoula, Concordia, Tensas, LaSalle, Franklin, or Caldwell Parish.

While LSU Junior Colleges never opened in those areas, they are served by other community and technical colleges. Delgado Community Colleges has campuses in Covington and Slidell in St. Tammany Parish. Louisiana Delta Community College has a campus in Winnsboro in Franklin Parish.

If the Legislature desires to clean up the Louisiana Revised Statutes by repealing obsolete or redundant sections, a good place to start would be in repealing the sections establishing an LSU Junior College in the northeast part of the state (R.S. 17:1531-1533) and an LSU Junior College in St. Tammany Parish (R.S. 17:1555).

It might be a bridge too far to expect the Legislature to pass legislation to merge some public four-year universities in this state. Failed attempts to merge UNO and SUNO in 2011 and to merge Louisiana Tech and LSU-Shreveport in 2012 and 2019 demonstrate that point.

However, the Legislature can take one step toward cleaning up the Revised Statutes and reserving decisions by their past colleagues by repealing the Statutes authorizing the Junior Colleges in St. Tammany and northeast Louisiana.

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