College presidents from across North Louisiana joined with business leaders in Shreveport on Tuesday to learn about an advocacy group called the Shreveport-Bossier Business Alliance for Higher Education. The organization will seek its nonprofit status next year. It was formed in 2010 out of concern for higher education budget cuts in Louisiana. Board chairman Patrick Harrison says its highest priority now is to protect LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport from being further compromised by LSU cuts and reorganization.
"We look for ways we can get involved and help to try to bring awareness to those issues, to see if we can help protect and save the medical school," Harrison said. "That's a tremendous part of our community, and an unbelievable employer and educator."
SBBA executive director Johnette Magner said her organization will be a higher education watchdog for Northwest Louisiana interests. She said she hopes it can be as influential as the Louisiana Flagship Coalition in Baton Rouge.
"There are some very wealthy, powerful men who are fighting on behalf of protecting that single piece of real estate, possibly at the expense of all the other schools in the LSU System," Magner said. "So, we’re trying to be the balance to the Flagship Coalition."
The SBBA’s office is housed downtown within the Shreveport Chamber of Commerce. About 60 people gathered for its launch event at the Shreveport Convention Center.