SHREVEPORT, La (KTAL/KMSS)- An important meeting took place Friday afternoon on the campus of LSU Shreveport where the president of LSU addressed what some lawmakers have called a lack of support and funding for the northwest Louisiana campuses.
“LSU for decades has left Shreveport behind in my opinion,” said State Rep. Thomas Pressly, (R) District 6.
Pressly said LSUS and LSU health are historically underfunded compared to other LSU system colleges.
It’s an issue the LSU Board of Supervisors is aware of and spoke about during the meeting.
“Oftentimes, down in the southern part of the state, LSU is so noted for it’s athletics, so we don’t always recognize and realize how important the academic side of things are here in Shreveport,” said Collis Temple, LSU Board of Supervisors.
LSU President William Tate said he appreciates Pressly for speaking out and agrees more needs to be done.
“We need to get together, not just the legislature but folks who live here along with LSU, and really lay out a real plan so we know what to ask for, so the investment really returns the bang for the buck,” Tate said.
Pressly cited how LSU embarked on a capitol fundraising campaign for $1.5 billion for a system-wide effort. The Baton Rouge campus received $27 million for new facilities relating to the alumni portion of the school while LSUS received less than $20 million for the entire campus. He wants Shreveport to be more of a priority and said the meeting was productive in bringing attention to what he calls a disparity.
“We know that LSU has a history of making these promises and we want to see action. I’m hopeful and optimistic we can see that action,” Pressly said.
Tate said it’s important to note that Baton Rouge has the largest enrollment in the state, thus drawing more alumni contribution dollars. He agrees the board and the state need to look for more fundraising campaigns for Shreveport campuses along with more state dollars allocated.
“I’m 100% in support of getting more resources here for this area and we’re going to work together to make sure that happens,” Tate said.
Tate and the LSU Board also toured LSU Health on Friday, saying they were highly impressed by the medical school.
“To be clear, nobody is talking about the quality of the LSU Health Sciences Center. They’ve done an excellent job over the last four to five years and really are adding value to this community. The question is can we add more value and I’m 100% committed to that,” Tate said.
During the meeting, Tate and the board even called for a new research for the medical school to increase their biomedical research.
“They’ve increased their research in pretty exponential fashion over the last five to seven years and I believe they can continue to do that which will add more money to Shreveport through external research dollars.”
Tate and Pressly agree the northwest region is strong in biotech, cyber, transportation and logistics, all areas the board will focus on to bring more funding for the schools.
“Well the president laid out a new vision and plans to lay out even more of a new vision. He talked about a strategic action plan that they’re working. Obviously I’m very interested to see what that is and what the goals are,” Pressly said.
Chancellor Larry Clark said that LSUS is not limited to how much fundraising dollars it can achieve, and the state has not appropriated enough dollars over the years. But it’s something most chancellors experience. He said the meeting helped and showed how much opportunity lies on the LSUS campus.
“There’s a lot of caring and from that can come solutions. There’s not agreement on what that solution looks like. But I think anytime as a chancellor, you can see and hear people talking about what’s important and we’re apart of that, so that makes for a great day for LSUS,” Clark said.
Clark went on to said that LSUS has made great strides increasing its revenue with online classes, increasing enrollment from around 3,300 students in 2014 to about 8,600 now.
State representatives from the region have criticized the system in the past, claiming that LSUS is not properly funded or supported by the main campus in Baton Rouge. These accusations came to a head last spring as Louisiana State Sen. Gregory Tarver, D-Shreveport called out the system over sexual misconduct allegations against Chancellor, Dr. Ghali E. Ghali who has since resigned from the school after he was cleared of all charges.
“LSU Baton Rouge has never had any love for LSU Medical School in Shreveport. They act as if they care about us in Shreveport but they look at us very differently. In over twenty-eight years of serving in the State Senate, LSU Baton Rouge has never genuinely cared for North Louisiana. Right now their only concern is self-protection because the LSU System has not yet begun to touch the surface of the issues surrounding the school in Baton Rouge.”