Higher ed chief evaluated in closed session
By Koran Addo
Capitol news bureau
September 29, 2012
Southern University in Baton Rouge and the nine-college University of Louisiana System got approval Thursday from the state’s higher education management board to add new academic degree programs.
The Louisiana Board of Regents gave Southern permission to offer bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in the newly merged mathematics and physics program.
Karen Denby, regents associate commissioner for academic affairs, said Southern has projected initially enrolling about 40 undergraduates and 15 master’s degree students as the combined program gets started.
Southern Chancellor James Llorens said the university’s separate degree programs were terminated because of low student completion rates.
Southern just recently completed an economics-driven reorganization in which the university’s nine academic colleges were merged into five, and about 30 degree programs with low completion and enrollment rates were cut.
Llorens said combining the separate math and physics degrees into one should take care of the “low enrollment” classification from the Regents.
“What we’re doing is combining the resources of two departments,” Llorens said. “The degrees are related enough that I think this is going to be attractive to a lot of students.”
The UL System also received conditional approval to launch its new online initiative where older students can earn a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership. The program will be offered in collaboration by all nine UL System colleges.
Core classes will be taught at all schools, but the specific concentrations will be taught by faculty at different universities.
For example, a student interested in a degree in disaster relief management would take concentration courses from faculty at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, while another student interested in health and wellness could take concentration courses at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Beatrice Baldwin, the UL System’s vice president of research and performance assessment, said the courses will be taught in five, eight-week accelerated courses expected to kick off in the spring or summer.
The program is designed to be more rigorous than just learning how to become a manager, Baldwin said.
To be eligible, students must be age 25 and older and have previously earned 60 college credits, she said.
Students who fall short of the course prerequisites can make up deficiencies online until they meet the requirements of the “home institution,” Baldwin said.
Meg Casper, regents associate commissioner of public affairs, said it is common practice for Regents to approve all new degree programs conditionally until they can be reviewed after about a year to make sure enough students are enrolling and the courses are progressing as planned.
The regents on Thursday also held a 2½ -hour closed door session to evaluate the job performance of state Commissioner of Higher Education Jim Purcell.
Purcell was working as Arkansas’ higher education chief before taking the job in Baton Rouge in February 2011.
After the meeting, regents Chairman Bob Levy, of Ruston, declined to discuss Purcell’s evaluation, saying personnel matters are private.