Jim Henderson UL System president 100616

Jim Henderson, president of Northwestern State University, was selected Thursday to be the new president of the University of Louisiana System.

The Board of Supervisors voted 10-0 to hire Henderson, who was recommended by an executive search committee.

Most college students in Louisiana attend one of the nine schools overseen by the system, including the University of Louisiana at  Lafayette, Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, the University of New Orleans and Nicholls State University in Thibodaux.

Enrollment totals about 90,000 students.

The hiring comes at a time when state aid for higher education has been cut repeatedly amid state budget problems.

In an open interview with the board, Henderson said one of his priorities is to "reverse this 10-year disinvestment in higher education.

"A sea change in policies, direction and strategies will be required to reinstate our institutions to the position of prominence which they deserve," he said in a prepared statement. "The System office will be at the forefront of those efforts in the years ahead, and the opportunities for the universities of Louisiana are limitless."

Henderson, 46, told the board that interacting with state lawmakers is no chore.

"Working with the Legislature, to me, is in some sick way fun," Henderson said to laughter.

He added, "Students are the most fun part of this job. They really are."

Henderson was the sole candidate recommended by the search committee, and Thursday's selection amounted to a formality.

"I don't have any questions because I think he is the right man for the job," said G. Gerald Hebert, of Kenner, a member of the board, during a question and answer session by the panel.

Northwestern has nearly 10,000 students and is in Natchitoches.

Henderson has been president of the school for 17 months.

Enrollment rose 7 percent this year, tops in the UL System.

Before that he was chancellor of Bossier Parish Community College.

Enrollment there shot up 86 percent during Henderson's five-year tenure.

Henderson is a native of Shreveport and graduated from Northwestern in 1994 with a bachelor's degree in English and journalism.

He earned a master's degree in administration from the University of West Florida and a doctorate in management from the University of Maryland University College.

Henderson's wife Tonia, who appeared with him, is also a graduate of Northwestern.

Tonia Henderson told the board she can vouch for the UL System because her mother, brother, mother-in-law and father-in-law also attended UL System universities.

Jim Henderson succeeds Dan Reneau, the former president of Louisiana Tech who has been serving as interim president since January after the resignation of Sandra Woodley.

The new president's salary will be worked out later, according to a spokeswoman for the UL System.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell.