LSU System Information

Higher Education in Louisiana

Rewritten and updated from original text by the Louisiana Board of Regents staff

The origin of both public elementary and postsecondary education in Louisiana can be traced to private institutions founded by religious organizations and philanthropic groups, particularly the Catholic and Methodist churches.   The Franciscans opened a school for boys in 1718 in New Orleans and in 1727 twelve nuns from the Sisters of the Order of Saint Ursula traveled from France to Louisiana where they opened Ursuline Academy, a school for girls, in the Vieux Carré.>

The first public institution of higher learning in Louisiana, called the College of Louisiana, was founded in 1825 at Jackson, La. In 1839, the Methodist Conference of Louisiana and Mississippi founded Centenary College in Clinton, Mississippi.

The College of Louisiana and Centenary College were merged under the name Centenary College of Louisiana and relocated to Jackson in 1845. In 1906, the leadership of Centenary College of Louisiana voted to move the campus to Shreveport and held classes for the first time in 1908 on what is the current campus site on Kings Highway south of downtown.

In 1834, a group of New Orleans physicians founded the Medical College of Louisiana, the first medical school in the Deep South and Southwest. Eleven years later, the Constitutional Convention of 1845 granted a charter to establish the state's first officially recognized higher education institution. It was named the University of Louisiana, located in New Orleans, and incorporated as the Medical College of Louisiana in 1847. The university closed temporarily during the Civil War. Through the generosity of a wealthy New Orleans merchant named Paul
Tulane, and with the concurrence of the Legislature, it reopened its doors in 1884. The University of Louisiana was reorganized as an independent institution at that time and renamed Tulane University of Louisiana.

The origins of Louisiana College, founded and owned by the Louisiana Baptist Convention, can be traced to the 1850s. In 1852, the North Louisiana Baptist Convention founded Mount Lebanon University as an all-male college in Bienville Parish. A few years later, the Grand Cane Association of Baptist Churches founded Keatchie Female College, located in DeSoto Parish. Both institutions were under the control of the State Baptist Convention by 1899. By 1906, the Louisiana Baptist Convention decided to close Mt. Lebanon and Keatchie, and establish Louisiana College in Pineville.
The roots of one other independent Louisiana institution still in operation today can also be traced to the nineteenth century. In 1869, the Methodist Episcopal Church established Union Normal School and the Congregational Church founded Straight University, both in New Orleans and both for the education of African-Americans. In subsequent years, Union Normal School was renamed New Orleans University and Straight University was renamed Straight College. In 1930, New Orleans University and Straight College merged to form Dillard University in New Orleans.
Two more private institutions for the education of black students were established around the same time and continued operation into the twentieth century. One institution, Leland College in New Orleans, was founded in 1869; it was destroyed by a hurricane in 1915. In 1923, Leland reopened in Baker, where it remained in operation until its closure in 1960. Coleman College was founded in Gibsland, Louisiana near Minden in 1890 and remained in operation until it closed in 1929.

The Legislature took steps to establish and support a public university in 1855. In that year, legislators authorized the foundation of Louisiana State Seminary of Learning and Military Science located in Pineville. William Tecumseh Sherman, its superintendent, welcomed the first class in 1860.

The Louisiana Seminary of Learning and Military Science closed the following year when most of its students enlisted in the Confederate Army and Sherman returned to the Union Army.

In 1865, the seminary reopened under the leadership of David French Boyd. The institution was relocated in 1869 to Baton Rouge and renamed Louisiana State University. In 1874, pursuant to the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862, the Legislature established Louisiana State Agricultural and Mechanical College in New Orleans. By an Act of the 1876 Legislature, the two institutions merged to form the Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College located in Baton Rouge.

Between 1880 and the turn of the century, the Legislature chartered four more public colleges and provided for an agricultural research enterprise under the jurisdiction of Louisiana State University. The first of these colleges was Southern University, a school for black students established in 1880 in New Orleans.

In 1890, the United States Congress passed the Second Morrill Act. Two years later,  Southern University also was recognized by the federal government as a land-grant institution. In 1912, the Legislature authorized the closing and re-establishment of Southern on a new site. The New Orleans campus was closed in 1914 was re-opened on its present campus in Scotlandville, Louisiana north of downtown Baton Rouge.
The Legislature chartered the Louisiana Normal School at Natchitoches in 1884. The Normal School offered two-year courses of study for the training of teachers. Baccalaureate programs in teacher education were initiated in 1918.

In 1884, the Legislature also passed an act authorizing the establishment of the Louisiana State University Agricultural Experiment Station. The station was organized at Baton Rouge in 1886 and in1887 became eligible to receive federal funds under the Hatch Act of 1887.

The Industrial Institute and College of Louisiana, located in Ruston was created by the Legislature in 1894. Designed to educate citizens in, among other areas, "the practical industries of the age," the institution now operates as Louisiana Tech University. The last public institution of higher learning chartered in the nineteenth century was created by an Act of the 1898 Legislature. The school, located in Lafayette, was called the Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute; it stands today as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

In the early years of the twentieth century there were four major higher education developments in Louisiana, including the creation of Grambling College as a private industrial school for African-Americans in 1901, Louisiana State University's addition of a law school in 1906, the establishment of the Louisiana State University Graduate School in 1909, and the transfer in 1918 of Grambling College to a public training school governed by the Lincoln Parish School Board.

Between 1900 and 1920, four independent institutions were established. In 1910, the Legislature authorized St. Mary's Dominican College, a Catholic liberal arts and sciences college for women in New Orleans, which remained in existence until 1984.

Two years later in 1912, Loyola University received its charter from the Legislature. In 1915, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, a Catholic religious community dedicated to the education of American minorities, founded Xavier University of Louisiana, which was recognized by the Legislature in 1917.

The Marianites of Holy Cross, a Catholic order of nuns, established the last independent institution founded prior to 1920.  The school later became Our Lady of Holy Cross College now located in the Algiers section of New Orleans.

During the 1920s, the expansion of higher education in Louisiana shifted to the public sector. A constitutional convention was called in 1921 for the purpose of re-writing the fundamental laws of Louisiana. The constitution restructured the governance of public higher education by creating two governing boards for Louisiana's state colleges and universities---the State Board of Education and the Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors.

Also in 1921, the Legislature authorized the expansion of two institutions to senior college status: the Louisiana Industrial Institute at Ruston became Louisiana Polytechnic Institute and Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute at Lafayette became Southwestern Louisiana Institute of Liberal and Technical Learning. The Legislature made Southern University a four-year institution in 1922.

Local governmental units also became involved in the expansion of public higher education in the 1920's. In 1921, the City of New Orleans opened a vocational trade school, which eventually became Delgado Community College. Property owners in Tangipahoa Parish opened Hammond Junior College in 1925, which later became Southeastern Louisiana University. In 1928, Grambling College became a state junior college and its governance was transferred from the Lincoln Parish School Board to the State Board of Education.
With the exception of the creation of the Louisiana State University Medical Center in 1931, the expansion of higher education in Louisiana during the 1930's involved two-year schools.

Ouachita Parish Junior College, which opened under the Ouachita Parish School Board in 1931, became a branch of Louisiana State University in 1934. In 1936, Grambling College was reorganized to offer rural teacher education programs, and in 1937, Southeastern Louisiana College extended its curriculum to four years.

McNeese State University was founded as Lake Charles Junior College, a division of Louisiana State University in 1939. In that same year, the Louisiana State University branch institution, Ouachita Parish Junior College, had its name changed to Northeast Junior College of Louisiana State University.

Before World War II, two changes were made in existing institutions: Grambling College began offering a four-year curriculum, and Lake Charles Junior College became John McNeese Junior College. In 1944, Louisiana State Normal College was renamed Northwestern State College of Louisiana.

After the war, two notable steps occurred in the development of higher education in Louisiana: Francis T. Nicholls Junior College of Louisiana State University opened in Thibodaux, and Southern University established its law school.

Louisiana substantially reorganized and expanded its higher education system in the 1950s. Two institutions became four-year schools, were given new names and shifted from Louisiana State University governance to the State Board of Education. These schools were McNeese State College and Northeast Junior State College of LSU.

Louisiana higher education circles were unusually active in 1956.  Francis T. Nicholls Junior College became Francis T. Nicholls State College, a four-year institution, and its governance was transferred to the State Board of Education. Additionally, two public colleges were authorized for construction in New Orleans: the New Orleans branch of Louisiana State University and the New Orleans branch of Southern University.

In 1959, the Legislature authorized the establishment of Louisiana State University at Alexandria. The Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute changed its name to University of Southwestern Louisiana in1960.

The Legislature authorized the creation of three new 2-year schools in 1964: Louisiana State University at Eunice, Louisiana State University at Shreveport, and Southern University at Shreveport-Bossier City. The Louisiana State University School of Medicine in Shreveport and the School of Dentistry in New Orleans were authorized in 1966.  
Also in 1966, the Legislature authorized the establishment of pilot programs in Bossier and St. Bernard Parishes to offer 13th and 14th grade courses under the governance of local school boards.

In 1968, the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine was authorized by the Legislature.  Six colleges were designated as universities by lawmakers in 1970: Louisiana Tech University, McNeese State University, Nicholls State University, Northeast Louisiana University, Northwestern State University of Louisiana, and Southeastern Louisiana University. Delgado Junior College was placed under the State Board of Education in that same year.

Louisiana State University at Shreveport acquired four-year status in 1972, and the Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors created an autonomous new element, the Center for Agricultural Sciences and Rural Development, with administrative control over Louisiana State University's Cooperative Extension Service and the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Stations.

In 1974, Grambling State College was re-designated Grambling State University, and Louisiana State University at New Orleans was renamed the University of
New Orleans.

A significant occurrence in higher education was the reorganization of the governance structure through the constitutional creation in 1974 of one statewide planning, coordinating and policy board---the Louisiana Board of Regents ~ and three management boards: the Board of Trustees for State Colleges and Universities, the Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors, and the Southern University Board of Supervisors.

A new dimension was added to Louisiana's higher education system in 1976 when Confederate Memorial Hospital, located in Shreveport, was transferred from the State Bureau of Hospitals to the Louisiana State University Medical Center. The name of the hospital was changed to the Louisiana State University Hospital in 1978, reflecting the hospital's reorientation from an institution committed only to the delivery of medical care to the indigent to a full-fledged teaching hospital.

Also in 1978, with the approval of the Board of Regents, the Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors created the Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center as an autonomous unit separate from Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College.

The Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON) was authorized by the Louisiana Legislature in Act 557 of 1979 upon the recommendation of the Board of Regents to promote and conduct research and education in the marine sciences and marine technology, especially that related to coastal resources. By 1987, the marine center, located in Cocodrie, Louisiana south of Houma was completed and today provides modern, shared-use facilities for research and education.
Baton Rouge oilman and philanthropist C. B. "Doc" Pennington had a vision of finding a cure for chronic diseases. His $125 million gift to Louisiana State University in 1980 provided funding to start the Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

The Center, opened in 1988, now houses 53 laboratories that span the Center's three programs---Basic Research, Clinical Research and Population Science---nineteen Core Service laboratories, inpatient and outpatient clinics, a research kitchen, an administrative area, and more than $20 million in technologically advanced equipment. The research complex encompasses 403,000 square feet.

The Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady of the Lake, a Catholic religious order dedicated to health care, established Our Lady of the Lake College as an independent institution in 1990. The college traces its roots to Our Lady of the Lake School of Nursing, founded in 1923.

In 1992, the Legislature authorized the merger of Elaine P. Nunez Vocational-Technical Institute with St. Bernard Parish Community College. The institution was renamed the Elaine P. Nunez Community College and placed under the jurisdiction of the Board of Trustees for State Colleges and Universities.

In 1995, Baton Rouge Community College was established as a two-year comprehensive community college under the joint administration of Louisiana State University and Southern University. The first building on the current campus was occupied on June 1, 1998.

Three new institutions and one merger were approved by the Legislature in 1997. South Louisiana Community College, River Parishes Community College and Louisiana Delta Community College were established as new institutions under the Board of Trustees. Orleans Regional Technical Institute was merged with Delgado Community College on July 1, 1997.

Act 3 of the 1997 Regular Session of the Legislature transferred Louisiana’s public hospitals to the Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors to be operated by the LSU Medical Center in New Orleans. The medical center eventually changed its name to the LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans.

In 1998, the responsibility for licensing of proprietary schools was transferred from
the Department of Education to the Board of Regents.

After several legislative resolutions for studies, the Louisiana Community and Technical College System was created in 1998 by constitutional amendment. Units moved to the system were Delgado Community College, Elaine P. Nunez Community College, South Louisiana Community College, River Parishes Community College, Louisiana Delta Community College, Bossier Parish Community College, Baton Rouge Community College and all public postsecondary technical colleges that provided vocational-technical education.

Legislation was also approved in 1998 to rename the Board of Trustees for State Colleges and Universities as the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System. The following year, 1999, legislation was approved authorizing the name changes of Northeast Louisiana University to University of Louisiana at Monroe and University of Southwestern Louisiana to University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

The name of the Louisiana State University Medical Center was changed by the Legislature to Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in 1999 to more accurately reflect the diversity of schools, programs, students and community responsibilities of the center. This change was more in concert with state and national trends, and enabled the Center to be in compliance with criteria of the various accrediting bodies.

In 2001, the Legislature recognized and approved the elevation of Louisiana State University at Alexandria as a four-year institution. That same year, the Legislature transferred control of the University Center at England Air Park to the Louisiana Board of Regents and established the Learning Center for Rapides Parish.

In 2003, SOWELA Technical Community College and L. E. Fletcher Technical Colleges were converted to technical community colleges in the Louisiana Community and Technical College System.

Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005 was a benchmark for Louisiana higher education and health care.  Both Charity Hospital and University Hospital in New Orleans were heavily damaged and knocked out of action.  While the LSU System leadership decided to permanently close Charity, University Hospital was repaired, using federal hurricane relief money, and was renamed the Interim LSU Public Hospital.

On April 18, 2011, construction began for the new University Medical Center in New Orleans that will replace Charity and the Interim LSU Public Hospital, when completed.  Also, in June 2011, the University of New Orleans was transferred by the Legislature from the LSU System to the University of Louisiana System.  The transfer took effect upon approval of UNO’s accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

At present, the higher education community in Louisiana is composed of 47 institutions or units. Thirty-seven are in the public sector; ten are in the private sector.

The Board of Regents has jurisdiction over three units:

The University of Louisiana System governs eight units:

A second management board, the Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors, governs 10 units:

The Southern University Board of Supervisors governs five units:

The Louisiana Community and Technical College System governs 10 units:

The Louisiana Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (LAICU) is composed of 10 regionally accredited independent institutions. They are: