Following a meeting today with Board of Regents (BOR) Chairman Bob Levy, Governor Bobby Jindal announced that he asked the Board of Regents to study whether students could be better served if the University of New Orleans (UNO) and Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO) merged and then the newly merged university was transferred to the University of Louisiana System, while also achieving greater collaboration with Delgado Community College nearby.
The analysis would be included as part of a study that Regents is already authorized to conduct by legislation passed last year by Senator Conrad Appel and former Senator Ann Duplessis which directed BOR to look at the regional coordination, maximization of resources, and quality of postsecondary offerings in the New Orleans area. The legislation included a March 1, 2011 deadline for the Board of Regents to complete the study.
Governor Jindal said, "Our goal is to provide the best service to students. That is why I have asked the Board of Regents to study whether students can be better served by a merger of SUNO and UNO and facilitating a greater partnership with Delgado. Both UNO and SUNO, which are just blocks apart, are under-enrolled and have empty classrooms, while Delgado is struggling to meet the needs of the community with its limited space. We look forward to receiving the results of this study and implementing their study recommendations through legislation in the upcoming session. We will work with legislators to ensure that any savings from streamlining these schools to improve student outcomes will be retained by higher education.
"It is important that this study remain an objective analysis, driven by facts and data, predicated on the best interests of students. We will wait until we receive the completed study before formulating or recommending any legislative proposals for the upcoming session."
Tony Clayton, former Chairman of Southern University, New Orleans, and current member of the Southern University Board of Supervisors said, "I understand and fully appreciate the bold initiatives that the Governor is taking to address the higher educational needs of the New Orleans area. We will take this bold study and fully vet it to make sure the needs of African Americans students are addressed."
Currently, UNO graduates 21 percent of its students in six years, while SUNO graduates five percent of its students during that time. Additionally, UNO's enrollment has dropped by 32 percent since 2005 -- from over 17,000 students to 11,700 today. SUNO's enrollment has decreased by 14 percent since 2005 -- from 3,500 students to 3,100 today. By comparison, Delgado's enrollment has grown without the physical space needed to expand.
While all three schools have buildings that remain out of use due to hurricane damage, UNO's remaining classrooms are full 44 percent of the time. SUNO has not updated this data since before the 2005 storms, but at that time, the school's classrooms were in use 46 percent of the time -- far less than Delgado's classrooms, which were used 84 percent of the time.
The Louisiana Constitution requires the Board of Regents to study the "need for" and "feasibility of" mergers, transfers, and creations before they occur.