LSU opposes merger study

JORDAN BLUM | Advocate capitol news bureau

October 13, 2011

A group of Shreveport-area business leaders has commissioned a study to consider merging Louisiana Tech University and LSU-Shreveport, among other possibilities.

LSU System President John Lombardi responded in a letter and email that the LSU System has no interest and the effort is akin to “attacking the integrity of the LSU System.”

Lombardi instructed LSU System institutions not to participate in the study, according to the letter, partly because it was initiated without any LSU input.

The study is being led by the Eva Klein & Associates firm, of Virginia, which has worked with the LSU System in past years in terms of studying higher education in northwest Louisiana.

The new effort though is funded by business leaders from the Community Foundation of North Louisiana and the Committee of 100 of Shreveport-Bossier under the umbrella group, the SB Imperative for Higher Education.

An SB Imperative spokesman, Dr. Phillip Rozeman, said the study is about local leaders addressing talks that arose during this past summer’s legislative session concerning mergers and the possibility of Louisiana Tech entering the LSU System.

The study, which should be finished by the end of the year, is a way to get ahead of the curve prior to the Louisiana Legislature convening next year, Rozeman said.

“We’re looking at various consolidations, various ways things can be put together,” he said, “to form a sum greater than the parts.”

Lombardi’s letter to Klein stated: “… I must tell you that the LSU System has expressed no interest in this merger at this time, nor has such been explored through the appropriate legal and organizational structure.”

He expressed concern that the groups did not work with the LSU System and the University of Louisiana System, which contains Louisiana Tech.

Lombardi noted he finds it “strange” that the group would look to consolidations with LSU-Shreveport or the LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport when the UL System has three universities on the Interstate 20 corridor.

“For example, Louisiana Tech, Grambling and the University of Louisiana Monroe are all within that I-20 Corridor and merging them through the good office of the (UL) System would surely make more sense than attacking the integrity of the LSU System,” he stated.

Lombardi said the institutions already work with each other and that “further integration” discussions have been on-going internally.

Rozeman responded, “We’re certainly not trying to destroy the LSU System … There’s nothing evil about anything we’re trying to do.

“Talking about change I don’t think is a bad thing,” Rozeman said. “We just want it to be done with some thought and some homework.”

Rozeman said the whole effort is really about improving the educational offerings and workforce environment in northwest Louisiana.

“We don’t have a huge school that has a lot of program offerings,” Rozeman said. “So that’s always been a concern with workforce development.”

Rozeman, who is president of Cardiovascular Consultants in Shreveport, also is serving on the state’s Governance Commission to study higher education in Louisiana and other issues.

State Commissioner of Higher Education Jim Purcell said in an email response that he supports the Shreveport-area study.

“Plus, it gives them skin in the game,” Purcell stated. “This is precisely that kind of regionally-grown innovation. It is probably too early to speculate on any conclusions, but I do think Shreveport could lead the way for other regions of the state to seriously discuss how their own higher education institutions can meet the needs of their residents as well as industry — and that’s quite exciting.”