lsu business  complex.jpg

The LSU E.J. Ourso College of Business received a $5.6 million donation over five years from the Charles Koch Foundation to expand its entrepreneurship education and research efforts, funding that moves it toward eventually being a privately funded business college.

BRET LOVETRO

A $5.6 million donation over five years from the Charles Koch Foundation will help the LSU E.J. Ourso College of Business expand its entrepreneurship education and research efforts and eventually move toward being a privately funded business college, school officials said Thursday.

Richard D. White Jr., dean of the college of business, said the grant will support the hiring of a research director at the Stephenson Entrepreneurship Institute and three tenure-track faculty members, as well as fellowships for graduate and undergraduate students.

"This is the first time we've ever used outside money to hire faculty and staff," White said.

The grant announcement was made during the Business College's Entrepreneurship Celebration.

The $5.6 million donation, along with $6 million that has come from Emmet and Toni Stephenson, for whom the institute is named, are enabling the business school to create a new financial model, he said.

Years from now, the College of Business will be privately funded, White said. A number of other public schools, including Auburn University and the University of Utah, have already taken the step of separating their business school operations from the university.

Right now, LSU's college of business receives about $24 million a year from student tuition and state funds, with just 20 percent of that being state funding. Private donations provide about $8 million a year, roughly four times the amount from three years ago when White became head of the College of Business.

State funding is rapidly disappearing, White said. A privately funded business school is a riskier proposition and puts more pressure on him and the college to raise money, he said. However, the self-funded business model also would allow the school to set faculty salaries and tuition rather than waiting on the state Legislature to approve tuition increases, as well allow better control over other aspects of its operations.

For more than 30 years, the College of Business has focused on growing its entrepreneurship offerings. The new grant will expand the impact of education and research programs, benefiting LSU students and the state's business community, officials said.

LSU President F. King Alexander noted that funding for entrepreneurship programs at LSU now exceeds $12 million through the Koch foundation and Stephenson family commitments.

"This demonstrates the commitment of both the university and our supporters toward leveraging the leadership of our students, faculty and alumni, who offer creative and innovative solutions that catalyze economic development and shape the economy of tomorrow,” Alexander said.

In 2007, the Stephensons, LSU alumni and entrepreneurs gave $4 million to the Entrepreneurship Institute, renamed the Stephenson Entrepreneurship Institute. The Stephenson’s earmarked another $6 million donation to the E. J. Ourso College in 2016. Those funds, to be spaced out over 10 years, led to the renaming of the Department of Information Systems and Decision Sciences, now the Stephenson Department of Entrepreneurship and Information Systems. In addition, the university has made an annual commitment of $550,000 for faculty salaries.

Grants from the Arlington, Virginia-based Charles Koch Foundation allow students and scholars to explore a diversity of ideas and perspectives at more than 300 colleges and universities nationwide, its website says. Grant recipients include top-ranked institutions such as Harvard, UCLA and Notre Dame, as well as smaller colleges. The foundation was founded in 1980.

Follow Ted Griggs on Twitter, @tedgriggsbr.