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New system president says Southern could fill a 'niche' - Thursday, August 5, 2010

New system president says Southern could fill a 'niche'

Baton Rouge Business Report - Daily PM Report

August 5, 2010

Reporter: David Jacobs

Ronald Mason Jr., the new president of the Southern University System, says the school's campuses could fill "a special niche" in Louisiana higher education beyond their historic role of educating black students. Mason wants to create a process for identifying students who have potential but are unable to get into a four-year college under new, higher admissions standards. "I'm not sure who has to make that decision, but I think we can have a national demonstration of how those students can be successful at a four-year school," Mason says. He says the state may need more associate"s degrees than four-year degrees for the jobs it has now. "But the question is not, what kind of state are we?" Mason says. "The question is, what kind of state do we want to be? It's clear that the future is going to be a bachelor's-degree future." Statistically, students who start at a four-year school are more likely to end up with a four-year degree than those who start at community colleges, he says. Mason, who spent the past 10 years as president of the Jackson State University System in Mississippi, started at Southern July 1. In an interview today, Mason acknowledged the need to build up confidence in the Southern system and its administration during what is a difficult time for higher education in general. "Southern has come off a bad stretch at a time when there's no room for error," Mason says. "We have to undo the damage and repair the ship in the middle of a hurricane, and turn it in the right direction." óDavid Jacobs