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LA Board of Regents holds rare meeting in Shreveport - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

LA Board of Regents holds rare meeting in Shreveport

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SHREVEPORT, La. (KTBS) -

It was a rare trip to Shreveport Wednesday for the Louisiana Board of Regents, the group that coordinates affairs for the state's 24 public colleges and universities.

For the first time in a long time, local higher ed institutions dare to be optimistic, as they presented before the board the critical role each of them plays in our community.

And that role, Chancellors say, is as much of an economic engine as the businesses for which they produce qualified employees.

"We're offering more quality degree programs, and reaching into the arena of offering more career options," says SUSLA Chancellor Dr. Ray Belton.

In addition to Belton, chancellors from BPCC, LSUS, and the LSU Health Shreveport Medical School all presented to the board recent institutional accomplishments amid a steady downpour of budget slashes.

"If the students come to medical school and train with us, almost two thirds stay in the state of Louisiana," says med school Chancellor Dr. Robert Barrish.

But through that tentative optimism, a cloud still hovers.

Faculty from UL-Monroe and nearby hospitals came to plead against the termination of a Medical Laboratory Science Bachelor's degree program, a stark reminder that the effects of limited funding continue to be far reaching.

"This is the downward momentum that has been established because of our funding problems for the past five years, through no fault of anyone other than the state of Louisiana hasn't had the money. And now in higher ed, it moves glacierly slow," explains Board of Regents Chairman Bubba Raspberry.

ULM President Dr. Nick Bruno said that program was chosen to be on the chopping block because it sees the fewest number of students come through (10 per year), and would make the least waves in terms of loss of tuition revenue.

But those speaking out at the meeting say the program is invaluable to the medical community, providing qualified graduates who are ready for the workforce.

They add that several northeast Louisiana hospitals have offered to assist in funding the program, which costs $300,000 a year to run.

Right now, that program at ULM is still standing.

Its termination will be discussed again at the board's March 26th meeting, with the board requesting a cohesive budget plan and presentation for keeping the program up and running.

Also on the agenda, a $6,961,000 tuition increase for the state's community and technical colleges under the GRAD Act, which was approved.

The institutions will utilize the additional revenue for expenses such as hiring full-time and adjunct faculty, increased operating costs, and to purchase new equipment.

That's all just a day after Gov. Bobby Jindal announced a long-awaited $141 million funding boost from the state for higher education, including a $40 million workforce incentive initiative

Jindal is expected to unveil his 2014-2015 fiscal year spending proposal to the House & Senate Budget Committee on Friday.

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