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|Commission opens book on higher ed|
A blue-ribbon panel tasked with developing a new vision for Louisiana's colleges and universities convened in Baton Rouge Monday.
The Tucker Commission was created by an act of the Legislature earlier this year. It is named after Speaker of the House Jim Tucker.
The commission's membership is comprised of education and business leaders from around the state.
Northeast Louisiana is represented on the commission by Ruston businessman James Davison.
Following Monday's meeting, Davison said the commission has a big job ahead it.
"It's in its infancy, but we had a nice meeting," said Davison.
Gov. Bobby Jindal previously said he hoped the commission would produce recommendations for higher education so Louisiana's schools can, "learn to do more with less."
The commission is expected to address duplication of programs and administrative services throughout the state. It also is expected to develop plans to reduce overhead to offset shrinking tax revenues.
That has placed many higher education employees on edge. It has led to speculation as well that the state could close programs or even campuses as the commission works to balance the needs of education in light of a limited amount of money to pay for it.
Louisiana Tech University President Dan Reneau told The Ouachita Citizen it's too early to speculate about potential changes as a result of the commission's findings.
"We don't know what the final recommendations will be and thus, how it will impact Louisiana Tech," Reneau said. "Our faculty and staff understand the challenges we are facing and have chosen to move forward on behalf of their students and their institution rather than focus on things that may or may not happen."
University of Louisiana-Monroe president James Cofer expressed optimism following the commission's first meeting.
"What I heard at the meeting on Monday was a call for more education and more degrees at every level, not less," Cofer said. "The commission will look at ways to make sure we are well positioned for the future, which will require more graduates at every level of post-secondary education."
The Tucker Commission also will examine the function of Louisiana's community college system.
Jindal often points to the community college system as one of the state's most effective tools in attracting businesses.
Louisiana community colleges administer the state's Fast Track program, which provides customized workforce training for new employers.
Louisiana Delta Community College Chancellor Luke Robins said it was too early to know how the commission will impact community and technical colleges, but he was hopeful.
"Delta, and the Louisiana Community and Technical College System in general, are growing rapidly, and the Commission will no doubt consider this carefully in their review," Robins said.
Reneau said any impact the commission has on higher education will hinge on the recommendations the commission makes and how those recommendations are implemented by the colleges, including Louisiana Tech.
"It depends on what the final recommendations of the Commission are and how those recommendations might impact Tech," Reneau said.
Cofer emphasized the quality of resources available to the commission and noted the valuable input available from state education leaders.
"The state of Louisiana has a great set of presidents and chancellors serving the colleges and universities," Cofer said. "I am satisfied that all of us stand ready and willing to provide any input the commission needs."
The Tucker Commission must complete its study in about nine months. Its findings will be submitted to the Board of Regents. The Board of Regents will review the commission's findings and adopt all or part of them. At that point, the Board of Regents will ask the Legislature to entertain the findings the Board of Regents approves.
In the meantime, Davison said the commission established "a firm foundation" at Monday's meeting.
"We got off to a very good start," Davison said.