25 seeking Louisiana higher ed job

Twenty-five people are being considered for Louisiana’s higher education commissioner job, but the state Board of Regents isn’t yet releasing their names.

The committee tasked with narrowing the candidate pool met — mostly in a closed meeting — in Baton Rouge Wednesday afternoon but took no action.

Though an early timeline proposed for the search initially had said that the committee would select a list of semi-finalists, Jim McCormick of Washington, D.C.-based AGB Search said that candidates haven’t yet been vetted for interest and the list includes people who were nominated by others.

“This constitutes all of the initial responses and nominations that we have received,” he said. “We have not narrowed the field in any fashion.”

Because the applicants haven’t been contacted and no formal applications have been submitted, Deputy Commissioner for Legal and External Affairs Uma Subramanian declined to release the names.

She said that names will be made public once the board begins the process of narrowing the applicant field.

Four of the 25 currently under consideration are women. The applicants come from locations across the country.

McCormick said the names include sitting university presidents and provosts, system presidents, heads of student-focused organizations and former public school administrators.

The state Board of Regents’ early timeline was to have a slate of finalists for the job by October, but that could be pushed back since the group didn’t identify semi-finalists this week as it was scheduled to. The committee’s next meeting is slated for Sept. 17.

The search for a new commissioner formally launched in July, after state lawmakers, in the final days of the 2014 legislative session, handed Regents the authority to set the job’s salary — a task previously left to a legislative committee.

McCormick said that the search firm, which is being paid up to $75,000 for its assistance, went through a “pre-search” to identify potential candidates early on.

“That, we think, is one of the most important parts of getting a search started,” he said, noting his firm also met with system leaders and campus representatives.

Officials have said the new commissioner’s salary likely will be in the mid-$300,000 range. Louisiana’s former higher education commissioner Jim Purcell was paid $275,000 a year.

The commissioner doesn’t receive free housing, a car or other perks that university presidents and chancellors often receive.

Despite a push from some higher education leaders to take it away, the state Senate held onto its confirmation of the commissioner hire.

Nominations for the job and letters of interest from potential candidates were accepted through Aug. 8.

Purcell quietly left the post in March, three years after taking the job that oversees Louisiana’s colleges and universities.

Rhode Island officials in July picked Purcell to lead that state’s college system.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter @elizabethcrisp. For more coverage of the Louisiana Legislature, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog .