Executive says community, tech colleges can help fill jobs _lowres

Monty Sullivan, Louisiana Community and Technical College System president

Monty Sullivan, president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, said the state won’t be able to meet its workforce demands if it doesn’t focus on educating the estimated 1.65 million Louisiana adults who have no post-secondary credentials.

“Are we going to solve the state’s workforce challenge with 40,000 high school graduates a year?” he asked. “No, we’re not. We have to do a better job of bringing adults into our institutions.”

He sees the 13 community and technical colleges that make up his system as crucial to that equation, he told the Baton Rouge Press Club on Monday.

“This is the great challenge of our time,” Sullivan said. “Those jobs come here portable and can leave here portable.”

Sullivan outlined the LCTCS 2020 strategic plan, which calls for the system to double the number of students it graduates annually to 80,000, double the earnings of an annual graduating class to $1.5 billion and quadruple the number of students who transfer to four-year universities to 10,000 each year over the next five years.

Transfer from the community college system to universities has been a work in progress for the state for some time.

Last year, the state Senate passed a resolution requiring that the Louisiana Board of Regents study transfers and report back. That report, released in February, detailed the impact of 2009’s legislation that sought to streamline the transfer of credits among Louisiana colleges and universities.

It says the state has seen growing use of the transfer program, but hurdles for students have included the loss of credits often when they have changed majors and a lack of academic advising options as state funding for higher education has been slashed.

“Transferring among and across colleges and universities will continue to increase with the expansion and strengthening of community colleges,” the report concludes.

Since then, leaders have continued to express concern over what some students say can be a difficult process.

Sullivan said “a lot of progress” has been made in the community college to four-year school transfers.

“It is not as easy as it should be,” he added.

He said the community college system is central to access to higher education opportunities in Louisiana.

“Your zip code should not have an impact on your ability to earn a baccalaureate degree,” Sullivan said.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp. For more coverage of Louisiana state government and politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog.