NEW ORLEANS -- As the Louisiana Board of Regents continues its study into the delivery of higher education services in New Orleans, Gov. Bobby Jindal on Tuesday asked the board chairman to consider a more specific idea -- merging the University of New Orleans and Southern University at New Orleans into one university and moving the institution into the University of Louisiana system.
"This study will absolutely be data driven. It's going to evaluate how this proposed consolidation of resources could improve student achievement in the Greater New Orleans area," Jindal said.
It's an idea that has been discussed many times over the years, but New Orleans District E City Councilman Jon Johnson, a SUNO graduate and longtime faculty member, doesn't like it.
"I think it's a bad idea. I think UNO and SUNO will probably feel the same way, and I think, quite frankly, one of the things that the governor has to do is realize, even if you were to merge these two schools, you've got to fund them," Johnson said. "Merging the two schools is not going to solve the financial problem that we have with this budget."
During his time in the state legislature, Johnson says he studied the possibility extensively, and found the savings resulting from a merger wouldn't be worth it.
"I think one can see that it’s been a very, very good investment for the state, it's been a very, very good investment for this community, and both of those universities need to be maintained," he said.
The idea would be to consolidate facilities and resources on the two campuses, while also requiring them to collaborate more with Delgado Community College.
At SUNO, students had mixed opinions.
"(SUNO) would be swallowed up by UNO, which is a much bigger school than SUNO, so we would lose our identity, and a lot people are against that," Gina Brown said.
Kristen Carter disagreed.
"It probably would save a lot of money and also give more students the opportunity to expand in other areas, because of course, UNO -- being a larger university -- has other programs that they offer that are not necessarily offered here at SUNO," she said.
At UNO, students didn't seem to think a merger would affect them as much.
"SUNO seems like a smaller school and it may benefit their students to come to a school with more opportunities, you know," Trent Gillham said.
Kathryn Pergola agreed.
"I don't think it would have as much of an impact (at UNO). We would probably get a higher student body and have more people coming here," she said.
SUNO officials sent a statement Tuesday, which didn't offer any opinions on the merger idea.
Instead, officials vowed to continue pursuing their current goals.
However, Southern University System President Ronald Mason said he was shocked.
His statement read: "The Southern University System is an important entity in the state of Louisiana, and for the past 52 years SUNO has served as a critical component of the Southern University System."
Meanwhile, UNO officials said they would not have a statement available Tuesday.