“I believe that a school is more than a set of buildings but rather an ideology that follows its graduates throughout their lives. Therefore, while damages were sustained during and after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on these two campuses, the regard felt for the learning institutions remains steadfast and the educations received there continue to bear fruit.
“SUNO is a historically black university with a rich tradition of over 50 years in New Orleans. Located adjacent to the Pontchartrain Park neighborhood, the first African American subdivision in the country, it is a beacon of hope for our African American youth.
“SUNO graduates become productive members of the Greater New Orleans area, which is a great feat in a city known for its poor education statistics. The SUNO School of Social Work offers a Master of Social Work degree that produces graduates poised to enhance the social functioning of New Orleanians. The Criminal Justice graduate program is responsive to the criminal justice needs in the public sector in areas such as corrections, police administration, and Juvenile Justice. Both of these graduate programs are significant to this city that continually struggles to improve the human condition.
“This merger would be taking a step in the wrong direction by increasing the obstacles faced by our urban youth. It is shortsighted to balance the budget at the expense of kids. This is a time when higher education should be growing and funding for higher education should increase.
“The idea of merging UNO and SUNO is especially disheartening at a time when New Orleans’ charter schools are setting an example for the rest of the country. It is not logical to build a strong primary and secondary education system while dismantling the higher education system.
“Furthermore, higher education is economic development. Universities represent some of the largest employers in the entire state, and a merger of this nature would result in job loss and a weakening of the city’s financial base.
“To further strengthen economic development through our education system, we should align higher education with the present and future workforce needs of our continually diversifying economy. Building up trade schools and higher education will offer our youth the opportunity to hold a career that will not only support themselves but will contribute to the city’s overall economic base.
“In my home state of Wisconsin, there is state university system that offers affordable, quality education to their youth throughout the state. The UW System is comprised of 13 four-year campuses, 13 two-year campuses and statewide UW-Extension, or satellite campuses. This comprehensive system offers a diverse array of degrees that meet the needs of the state’s workforce, and I encourage our State leadership to look to Wisconsin as a model from which to learn.
“It is my hope that, while remaining fiscally prudent, the State of Louisiana will find a solution to the funding of our higher education institutions without merging these two schools. If there is a review of universities, let it be a statewide review rather than just focusing on New Orleans.”
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