SHREVEPORT, La. – A decades-old contract with a foreign company could be slowing progress on the campus of Louisiana State University – Shreveport, 3 Investigates has discovered.
LSUS is experiencing a surge in enrollment, leading to an influx of money and a long list of improvements on campus.
The school, widely known as a commuter campus, is now drawing out-of-state and international students.
"It’s nice,” said Nathan Stark, a junior from Canada. “I went to a small college in Kansas my first couple of years. And then coming down here, it’s a nice, big, nice campus."
"It’s just a great experience, in my opinion," said Jeffrey Boyd, a junior from Chicago who attends LSUS on a basketball scholarship.
As LSUS administrators look to make the campus a more appealing destination for higher learning, they’ve spent millions of dollars on improvements. Chancellor Larry Clark points to the new student success center, a veteran's resource center, the newly-renovated gym and classrooms, and a food pantry for students.
"We came from not being very good, so it was pretty easy,” Clark said. “But we didn’t just stop to become good. We’ve leapfrogged to become very good."
Total enrollment jumped 20 percent over the past year. According to data provided by the university, more than 8,400 hundred students are currently enrolled at LSUS. That includes the more than 5,900 that are enrolled in the university’s online programs.
Clark said the online program has injected millions of dollars into the university’s piggy bank, allowing for more than $13 million in improvements over three years.
"We are damn good at what we do online. We are very, very good,” Clark said. “The great thing about that is, it’s providing us the ability to invest where we don’t have the money coming from the state."
In the next five years Clark’s goal is to have at least 4,000 on-campus students.
"I think the momentum we’re building will cause that to happen," Clark said.
However, a 40-year contract with an Australian company can slow that momentum.
Campus Living Villages, Inc. controls the University Court apartments, which are the only student housing available at LSUS.
According to the contract obtained by 3 Investigates, University Court must be the school’s only campus housing facility until 2032.
CLV manages campus housing facilities in Australia, the United Kingdom and at 20 universities in the United States. Most of the American universities that contract with CLV are in Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas.
When LSU's board of regents entered into the contract in 1992, the company, then known as Housing Partnership I, Ltd., was based in Texas. At the time, no school in Louisiana had ever before asked an outside company to run its housing.
"As a lawyer by background, it was not a very good lease,” Clark said. “But it was the first lease of its kind."
The nearly 30-year-old lease carries some restrictions.
“The lease says in it –- which is one of the concerns for us –- we cannot build any other kind of housing, we cannot offer any other kind of housing, we cannot have our students consider -– direct them towards any other kind of housing, but for that housing," Clark said.
Clark wants to build freshman housing and upgrade the existing housing, but he doesn't want to wait until 2032 to do that.
The school is currently in negotiations with CLV to buy out the lease. Clark would not specify details of the negotiation, but he told 3 Investigates he was pleased with the progress.
"We believe it’s going to be settled and we’re moving forward,” Clark said. “Campus Living Villages has worked very effectively and well with us. They see this as a transition that’s good for us."
Clark said any final agreement would have to be approved by the CLV Board of Directors and LSU’s Board of Regents.
3 Investigates spoke with several students living at University Court, which recently received upgrades from CLV to its WiFi network. None of those students complained about the overall quality of the apartments, though two of them mentioned minor issues with low water pressure.
CLV did not provide a comment on the matter when contacted by 3 Investigates.