SHREVEPORT, La (KTAL/KMSS) – The Louisiana Board of Regents accepted a recommendation to not establish a stand alone law center in Shreveport, but a law school could still be coming to the city.
Caddo Parish Commissioner Steven Jackson tells KTAL/KMSS an alternative was developed for Southern University to work with the Parish and the City to create a plan for a satellite campus.
“We never advocated for a new facility. What we’ve always been a proponent of is renovating existing space, making use of existing space that Southern Shreveport has as well as the Shreve Memorial library.”
Southern University System officials will tour the Shreve Memorial Library- Main Branch in downtown Shreveport Thursday morning to assess the cost to re purpose the existing space.
“Southern University is very committed to expanding their footprint throughout the state and legal education in Northwest Louisiana is one of those commitments they’re making.”
Last year, the Louisiana House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a bill by State Rep. Cedric Glover that called on the Board of Regents to study the viability of a Southern University law school in Shreveport.
The Caddo Parish Commission in April 2019 approved providing $100,000 to fund the study.
The National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) was selected to conduct the study to determine the extent to which a new law school is needed in Shreveport-Bossier and to recommend alternatives to best meet the legal education needs in the Shreveport-Bossier region. This included conducting interviews with stakeholders and performing data analysis.
NCHEMS staff provided an overview of their findings and recommendations to the Board at Wednesday’s Board of Regent’s meeting.
NCHEMS’s conclusions are as follows:
- “On a per capita basis (in comparison with other states), Louisiana has a lot of law schools and a lot of law school graduates. The state does not have a capacity problem – it has a distribution problem.”
- “There is little compelling evidence that a new law school is warranted in the Shreveport/Bossier region.”
- To meet the legislative resolutions’ requests to study the feasibility of increasing educational opportunities in the Shreveport-Bossier area, two options are outlined in the report: the establishment of a branch campus in Shreveport for Southern University Law School and relocation of the Southern University Law School from Baton Rouge to Shreveport.
- The cost for a branch campus is “significant,” requiring an estimated $5 million in annual operating costs and an additional estimated $14.7 million capital outlay requirement, although the report does note community discussions regarding providing some needed space.
- For both options, significant accreditation requirements from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and the American Bar Association are also outlined.
- Recognizing the interest in retaining lawyers in the Shreveport area, scholarship, tuition deferral, and loan forgiveness programs are recommended to provide an incentive for Shreveport law students to return and work in their communities.
- The other three law schools in Louisiana – LSU, Tulane and Loyola – expressed no plans for expanding into the Shreveport area, according to the report.
Jackson says, “I was very disappointed that they would make a suggestion about a $14 million building and not give any suggestions or any thought about using existing facilities that we already have. I was disappointed and quite frankly offended when they suggested that we move Southern University law school from Baton Rouge to Shreveport. That seemed to be an opportunity to divide the issue between Baton Rouge or south Louisiana versus north Louisiana.”
The study did find that the region is underserved in opportunities for graduate-and professional-level education, including legal education. Several individuals interviewed for the study expressed support for increased graduate education, some of them indicated they would prioritize “higher demand and impact professions like health care and engineering” over legal education in the Shreveport-Bossier area.