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Everybody is growing in NW Louisiana but Grambling

EDITORS NOTE: Reprinted by permission of HBCU Digest. The original article was posted on on Nov. 7.

Big things are happening in Northwest Louisiana. Two months ago, Louisiana Delta Community College announced a nursing articulation agreement between the school and Northwestern State University, which will offer students earning nursing associate degrees a seamless pathway to undergraduate programs offered online at the four-year school. NSU will join the University of Lousiana-Monroe in nursing partnership with LDCC.

That news accompanied state officials’ plans to build a new campus for Delta Community College in Ruston, along with an accompanying technology park and access road that will all total more than $15 million in construction. And that new campus will be an extension of Louisiana Tech, which last month celebrated the final phases of construction on a new $30 million engineering and science facility, which will house the university’s cyber engineering program.

The week that several of these announcements were made, Grambling State University President Rick Gallot penned an open letter to the campus community, offering thoughts on what Grambling’s legacy would look like in the industrially competitive years to come.

And, what does that “push” look like today? Well, take a second to imagine with me. Let’s think about the world beyond Grambling where many of our graduates will live and work. When we get to the year 2030, what kind of jobs do you think we will see? What employers will be making the world-changing solutions that grow our economy? And, what tools do we think that workforce will need?

In the UL System, we are already strategizing around these questions. At Grambling State, we are already hard at work on the answers. From the progress toward Louisiana’s first bachelor’s degree in Cybersecurity to partnering with the New Louisiana Angel Fund to empower entrepreneurs, we are working on the next installment of our legacy.

It is hard to stomach that in one week, competing institutions around Grambling State, with the explicit support of Louisiana’s Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards, announced new degree programs and facilities which could stunt growth and expansion at the GSU in short order and for years to come.

While Grambling is one year away from offering the state’s first degree program in cybersecurity, the nation’s first cyber engineering program launched at Louisiana Tech in 2013 will have a glittering new facility to attract more students from the region and beyond and opening its doors in 2019.

Grambling’s rebooted nursing program returned to campus this fall, but will now compete with a satellite nursing campus for Northwestern State and ULM less than 50 miles away without the negative brand of having lost authorization from the state’s board of nursing.

Grambling still awaits construction for a new library, which nearly two years after seeing Grambling’s dilapidated facility and deeming it a “failure” of the state, seemingly remains low on Gov. Edwards priority list against developing everything in Grambling’s geographic footprint, but not Grambling.

Louisiana has failed Grambling for generations. But the failure is being exacerbated by growth around the university at proximate PWIs, and by the silence of Gallot and Grambling’s leadership.

State officials are building a new community college and planting resources around nursing and cyber defense and design all in Grambling’s backyard while Grambling silently waits for its turn to get even basic investments. And while it may be difficult to imagine Gallot or any other state employee publicly holding elected officials and the University of Louisiana System to account for these disparities, something has to give; and it appears that Grambling’s survival is less of a priority than the livelihoods of campus leaders and political clout of GSU advocates.

Make no mistake; the State of Louisiana is trying to knock Grambling off the map. The programs which made GSU strong are being virtually duplicated and lavished with resources at nearby PWIs. Grambling students are being deprived of facilities and professional training amenities that would make the living and learning experience comparable with other state schools in the region. Alumni are not being alerted about the danger these issues present to the future of the school.

And when you balance all of this against the UL System’s mandate to increase enrollment over several years to virtually unattainable goals, the picture of the plan to starve Grambling to death is beyond what some would like to describe as fake news or conspiracy theory. It is real and happening now.

Maybe no one wants to hold state officials accountable, but someone who holds Grambling near and dear ought to think about consequences for those on campus who insist on silence in the face of the onslaught.