UL System President Jim Henderson says he’s keeping his focus on his corner of the Louisiana higher education system.
Henderson’s name has been floated as a possible candidate to replace former LSU President F. King Alexander, who left the position on Dec. 31. After speaking to the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge today, Henderson tells Daily Report his attention remains on leading the UL System.
“I’ve got a full-time job with nine universities, 92,000 students, and that’s my focus,” Henderson says.
His sentiment echoes statements that Henderson made in December. Henderson has led the nine-university system since June 2017 and previously was president of Northwestern State University, his alma mater.
As the LSU Board of Supervisors prepares for a national search for Alexander’s replacement, talks have also begun on splitting the job into two positions—one to serve as administrator of the LSU A&M campus and one to oversee the entire LSU system.
“They haven’t even defined what they’re working on,” Henderson says, referring to the LSU Board of Supervisors. He added the board should gather input from faculty and the community in its decision.
He wouldn’t definitively say whether he supports the split or not, citing the four separate higher education systems in the state.
“LSU’s board has to determine what’s in their best interest and really think about what’s the purpose, what is it that we’re trying to accomplish in the broad sense.”
No matter the decision, though, LSU would have to explain the costs, or return on investment, to the public.
The question comes at a time when the price of higher education has doubled in the last 10 years as a result of state funding costs that have been shifted to students. Henderson told Rotary Club members today that it’s now the role of university administrations to work to eliminate unnecessary costs that don’t add value to consumers, or students in this case.
At the same time, the University of Louisiana system is working to reach those who have attended college but never finished their degree.
In the Baton Rouge area alone, there are an estimated 165,000 adults who fit into that category, Henderson says, touting the system’s new Compete LA program.
The program recruits adults by providing coaches all the way through to graduation and removing barriers like immunization records. The launch ties into a shift in the higher education mindset that with the right, adaptable capabilities, degree holders will be better positioned in the job market to endure an accelerating upward curve of technology growth.
“The key is to produce those that are adaptable,” Henderson says of college students today. “In Louisiana, I daresay, we are not fully prepared for that new reality.”