Grambling State University could be facing some shake-ups in its course offerings and how it markets itself to increase enrollment.
It definitely could attract more students by offering its most popular courses at locations other than its campus, said Randy Moffett, president of the University of Louisiana System.
The issue was raised Monday by Tony Clayton, a member of the Southern University Board of Supervisors and member of the Postsecondary Education Review Commission.
"The perception is my campus (in north Baton Rouge) is located in a high-crime area and Grambling is located in a high-poverty area," Clayton said, "which makes it hard to attract a lot of diversity in students."
Both historically black institutions could prosper by moving some courses to alternative sites, Clayton said. Southern University at Shreveport proved that by moving its nursing program to downtown Shreveport, where it now has a 50 percent white enrollment.
In testifying before the panel, Moffett agreed that "oftentimes perception is reality," so Grambling is somewhat limited in attracting students because of its location. But answering another panel member's question, Moffett said he would never propose moving the campus.
"Focusing on a limited number of programs might be something we need to look at," he said, adding that GSU has the highest graduation rate of computer science majors and has successful nursing and teacher preparation programs.
Grambling could draw more students by establishing satellite sites and offering online courses, Moffett said.
"It's the least active of our eight universities" in offering distance learning, he said. "Grambling needs to open its eyes up and make the university more accessible to students in other places"» Take the product where the students are."
Committee member David Longanecker, president of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education that is based in Boulder, Colo., said he has examined Grambling and "the numbers look troubling. That's an institution that to be a strong institution needs exceptional consideration and funding. It's clearly struggling to maintain enrollment."
Part of the problem, he said, is "its location. They almost had to make the circle smaller so the two institutions in that region would not overlap. I understand the tradition and history of that institution, but it's a troubling set of numbers that you face."
"It is the most challenged university in our system" and although Louisiana Tech has shared some faculty members with Grambling, to make further improvements the ULS board will "look at some collaborative partnerships with nearby institutions," including the University of Louisiana at Monroe.
But other changes could be necessary, he said, such as being "systematic in what we might eliminate" and "how and where they recruit."
"We don't have a magic solution," Moffett told the panel.
Marc Musick of the Southern Region Education Board, said he believes Moffett and the UL System "are on the right track" to improving all of the schools in the system.