Interview with Kristine Calongne of LSU
The Higher Education Policy/Research Center has produced a ranking of 109 public research institutions, and LSU is 53rd (La. Tech 85th). The author of the report has spoken precisely on the Louisiana situation, and he notes low admissions standards as a key problem for both LA tech and LSU. He believes higher requirements would lead to higher graduation rates and better quality research.
Fergus: Do you dispute his inference?
Kristine: While LSU has the highest admission standards of any public university in Louisiana, we are always trying to improve. Over the past 20 years, LSU has steadily increased its admission standards and doubled its research productivity, but we can do more. One way to improve both measures is by changing the financial model to include greater flexibilities for universities – something we will be working toward during this legislative session. We work constantly to recruit and admit the best-qualified, highest-performing students possible, and LSU is home to many world-renowned faculty members who are producing ground breaking research. We are proud of our students and faculty, and of their accomplishments, and we are very pleased with the progress we’ve made during the past 20 years. Of course, we are always striving to get better, and we certainly want to improve graduation rates.
Fergus: Would you like to comment on your pleasure at making the 109, one of only two universities in Louisiana?
Kristine: LSU is Louisiana’s flagship university; as such, it is integrally involved, not only in teaching, but also in research and public service for the state. It is always nice to be recognized – especially by our peers in higher education – for the work we do and for the quality education we provide for our students.
Fergus: Currently 17 percent of LSU freshmen come from the bottom half of their high school class and 25 percent come from the top 10 percent of their high school class. Are you seeking to improve these numbers? How? If not, why not?
Kristine: LSU is always seeking to improve the quality of its students. For example, in fall of 2010, LSU hosted the most diverse and highest-performing freshman class ever. And we plan to continue to improve. It is important to note, however, that our students come from across Louisiana, from all 50 states, and from many other countries, so the high schools from which our students hail vary greatly. Like most research universities, LSU considers many factors when admitting students – not only their high school rank.
Fergus: 61 percent of LSU freshmen graduate within six years, and only 28 percent graduate in four years. What efforts are you making to raise graduation rates? How much of a concern is this?
Kristine: LSU has actually made great strides in graduation rate over the past 15 to 20 years. During that time frame, only one other university in the nation, the University of Maryland, equals LSU’s improvement in graduation rate. But we’d like our numbers to only get better. To accomplish this, we continue to recruit the best students possible and we work to provide them with the tools they need to matriculate in a timely manner. We have also begun a special initiative to improve retention and graduation rates, in response to the LA Grad Act. Recent budget cuts to LSU have made this task more daunting, but we think that we can achieve more.
Kristine Calongne is the assistant vice chancellor for communications with Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge.