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January 06, 2006

University Systems and Campuses Forge Unique Partnership to Continue OT Training for Students in Northeast Louisiana

Two university systems and two of their campuses have crossed traditional management lines to forge a partnership that will help ensure a continuing supply of occupational therapists for northeast Louisiana and continuing opportunities for students to pursue OT training in that region, officials announced today.

The Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System and University of Louisiana Monroe officials discussed the terms of the partnership this morning in Baton Rouge with LSU System and LSU Health Sciences Center officials, some of whom participated from Shreveport via video conference.

UL System President Dr. Sally Clausen said her system and its eight campuses have been reviewing and adjusting programs to look for efficiencies, control costs and promote cross-system cooperation.

“Working across systems is not the norm, but we have done it before, and we will do it again as we put the needs of students first,” said Dr. Clausen.

LSU System President Dr. William Jenkins said, “This collaboration will be one of many as we work to support each other.  It’s also important as we continue to anticipate and serve the health care needs of our state and citizens.”

Budget cuts of $2.2 million, new accreditation demands and future program costs had forced ULM to re-examine its occupational therapy offerings.  The national accrediting body for occupational therapy changed its standards, requiring OT graduates to earn a masters degree before they could be licensed.  ULM had been working with Regents staff to create a new Masters of Occupational Therapy (MOT) program.

But, hurricanes Katrina and Rita changed those plans as declining state revenues led to state-ordered budget cuts of $2.2 million at ULM.  University officials said the costs for instituting the new masters of OT program would be prohibitive, and they began exploring other options.

Today’s agreement calls for LSUHSC-Shreveport to expand its MOT program to accommodate some ULM graduates.  In return, ULM will provide about $110,000 annually to help defray the costs of the additional faculty needed to accommodate the ULM students.  LSUHSC-Shreveport also will work to place the ULM students in the Monroe area for their clinical training.

The agreement takes effect July 1 with the first students being admitted in May 2007. 

“ULM has a positive legacy of offering occupational therapy in the northeast Louisiana region, and we wanted to continue that service,” said ULM President Dr. James Cofer.  “But, we simply could not afford the recurring costs of $400,000 to start a new masters program, as new accreditation standards required.  Our students asked us to examine our decision, and we looked at every possible way to continue providing services to them and to our region.”  

Dr. Cofer credited UL System President Dr. Sally Clausen for initiating talks with LSU officials about forming the partnership between the systems. 

“Dr. Clausen and LSU officials looked outside their systems for the good of the state as a whole, and that unselfish leadership made all the difference,” said Dr. Cofer.  “Within the current fiscal restraints, we believe this partnership affords our students the best opportunity to pursue a masters degree in occupational therapy.”

Dr. Cofer said the agreement with LSUHSC-Shreveport

John C. McDonald, M.D., chancellor of LSU Health Sciences Center at Shreveport said, “We continue to support the concept of cooperative programs for the overall betterment of the citizens of Louisiana , who depend on the healthcare professionals we educate.”

Gerard Killebrew, Regents’ associate commissioner of academic affairs, commended the partnership.  “The collaborative action of ULM and LSUHSC-Shreveport to provide MOT education across north Louisiana represents the type of cooperation that will be needed among all state colleges and universities during these trying fiscal times while continuing the state’s commitment to higher education access and quality,” Killebrew said.

Killebrew said he, Regents and the UL System staff will work with ULM to consider development of a bachelors degree in health sciences to prepare students for entry into multiple graduate-level health science programs.

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