Interview with Leaders of Louisiana Tech University in Ruston

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Continued from “New Research: Louisiana’s Higher Education Plagued by Low Admissions Standards.”

The Higher Education Policy/Research Center has produced a ranking of 109 public research institutions, and Louisiana Tech University is 85th (LSU is 53rd). 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?

Pamela Ford, dean of enrollment management and marketing and public relations: “I do believe that higher admission requirements will lead to higher graduation rates.”

Les Guice, vice president for research and development: “Anytime we can attract better students, it has an overall positive impact on the whole campus, including research.  Prospective students are excited about the undergraduate research opportunities that they have at Louisiana Tech.”

Fergus: Would you like to comment on your pleasure at making the 109, one of only two in LA.

Dan Reneau, president: “Attracting the best and brightest students has greatly contributed to Louisiana Tech’s reputation as one of Louisiana’s premier research institutions.”

Fergus: Currently 23 percent of LA tech freshmen come from the bottom half of their high school class and 19 percent come from the top 10 percent of their high school class. Are you seeking to improve these numbers? How? If not, why not?

Ford: We are definitely seeking to improve these numbers. How we are approaching this involves virtually every aspect of the University including but not limited to raising admission standards, K-12 outreach to help improve college preparedness, hiring and maintaining excellent faculty and staff,  improving student academic support and recreation services, expanding and improving our physical plant to include apartment style residence halls, expanded undergraduate research opportunities, increased recruiting efforts, and more.

Fergus: Fewer than half (46 percent) of LA Tech freshmen graduate within six years, and only 26 percent graduate in four years. These are well below national and southern averages. What efforts are you making to raise graduation rates? How much of a concern is this?

Ford: Improving graduation rates is a major focus for Louisiana Tech University. The 46 percent graduation rate was calculated on the entering class of 2003.  Admission standards have subsequently been raised for the incoming class of 2005, 2011, and will increase again 2012.  Additional student support services have been put in place including the opening of the Bulldog Achievement Resource Center (BARC) in 2007.  The BARC provides student academic assistance in the form of tutoring, Supplemental Instruction, advising, and more.  We have already realized a 3 percent improvement in graduation rates from 46 percent for the entering class of 2003 to 49 percent for the incoming class of 2004.

David Guerin, La. Tech’s director of marketing and public relations, provided these responses on behalf of the university.

Fergus Hodgson is the capitol bureau reporter with the Pelican Institute for Public Policy and editor of The Pelican Post. He can be contacted at fhodgson@pelicaninstitute.org, and one can follow him on twitter.