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|Walsworth: Higher ed must change|
State Sen. Mike Walsworth is optimistic the newly formed Postsecondary Education Review Commission will be successful in finding ways to streamline higher education.
The commission held its first meeting Monday.
Walsworth spoke about higher education and other state issues Tuesday at Downtown Monroe Lions Club's weekly meeting.
The Postsecondary Education Review Commission was created through legislation passed during the recent Regular Session. The nine-member commission is tasked with reviewing Louisiana's higher education programs and finding ways to make them more efficient.
"This commission will look at all higher education," said Walsworth, R-West Monroe.
"That goes from the community colleges all the way up to our medical and law schools," he said. "They'll look at the LSU system, the Southern system and Louisiana system - all of higher education - to see where we're headed."
The commission has nine months to come up with recommendations, which will be presented to the state Board of Regents. The Board of Regents will submit part or all of the commission's findings the Legislature for its consideration during the 2010 regular session.
Walsworth is hopeful recommendations the commission may piece together will involve revamping programs instead of shutting down any campuses.
"Some are talking about consolidating campuses, but I would like to see a consolidation of curricula first before we look at consolidating campuses," he said. "Maybe have nursing or healthcare at one and construction at another."
"Consolidation of campuses should be the last option," Walsworth continued. "That would be devastating to any town or community that would lose their university. Before we go down that road, let's look at consolidation of curricula and consolidation of managing boards, including the Board of Regents and Board of Supervisors.
"LSU has a board, community colleges have a board, technical colleges have a board. We've got so many boards out there. Let's consolidate those before we go looking at consolidating universities. We can do that without devastating any communities at all."
Another concept Walsworth hopes will be considered would entail more of the state's universities becoming centers of excellence.
For example, instead of having three nearby universities offering the same nursing curriculum, one university could consolidate the programs and become the main hub for that curriculum.
He said Grambling State University, Louisiana Tech University and the University of Louisiana-Monroe are located within 35 miles of one another. All three offer a variety of different curricula, however, all three also offer many of the same courses.
"We've got a nursing school at all three of those universities," Walsworth explained. "Maybe we could just bring in the one nursing school at ULM and have that instead of having it all three universities. I don't know where we're headed, but I want to protect our campuses, and at the same time, try to grow these centers of excellence."
"Hopefully that's the direction we'll be moving toward," he added.
In spite of the commission's recommendations, though, Walsworth said changes must be made within higher education.
"To be honest, higher education cannot look tomorrow like it looks today," he said. "We've got to make some changes, and hopefully those changes will come about by higher education looking within itself to see where we need to go."