Two years after the Louisiana State Board of Nursing revoked approval for Grambling State University’s undergraduate nursing program, the board last month approved a reboot of the department.
The move, designed to aid the school in hiring new faculty and improving standards to make sure that graduates can consistently pass the national Nursing Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), has renewed hope in the school’s ability to jumpstart one of its vital degree areas with local and national importance.
Grambling nursing has sent thousands of graduates out into Louisiana and beyond to aid in the growing need for expert health care provision in low-income and under-resourced areas. It the same thing that HBCUs around the country deliver in the way of supporting the nation’s most vulnerable groups of citizens, in every endeavor of industry and social good.
But for as much work as officials from GSU, the state’s nursing board, and the University of Louisiana System seem to be doing to set nursing up for a 2018 return which could welcome an estimated incoming class of about 50 students and use about $400,000 in federal funds, that same coalition must be sure that Grambling maintains its brand in other critical program areas.
In April, GSU’s Department of Mass Communications was denied re-accreditation by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications, citing noncompliance with governance, administration and learning outcomes, along with “other weaknesses” identified during a site visit.
The university’s current accreditation status with the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) is listed as ‘deferred,‘ pending additional review.
Grambling’s mass communications and teaching programs offer degrees at baccalaureate and master’s levels. Both are critical training programs in two industries which, along with nursing, will be primed for massive investment over the next ten years and will offer many jobs to prepared entry-level graduates, even as the number of careers which will not require a college degree will increase.
As we prepare for a world with fewer HBCUs, the ones which will be able to survive will need programs which not only admit students who can graduate but those who will be fast learners, effective communicators, technologically savvy and able to work within diverse work settings. Programs which cannot pass the muster with industry-specific accreditation will trail competing universities, traditional and online, which can offer that distinction to prospective students and faculty.
And when the students stop coming into programs of strength, the university is certain to perish.
The good news for Grambling is that it maintains strength and accreditation in other areas like social work and business. These programs will continue to be an ideal choice for students who want a virtually guaranteed job after graduation, and who want a program which can prepare them for graduate work and avail them to expansive alumni and regional networks to help them find work in competitive job markets.
But Grambling, like any HBCU, is far better suited with five notable and accredited programs than three – and now, two of them are not on the sturdiest of ground for attracting students, federal funding, or support from state officials which say they want the school to survive.
If the Louisiana legislature, the UL System, and Grambling officials are serious about a renaissance for the institution, they will attack these areas with the same intensity with which they approached nursing – and they will begin to find the ways in which corporate support, along with state and federal resources, can help to underwrite their efforts.
It is not about history, tradition or what is familiar ground for the school and its supporters; this is about labor, money, and which schools will produce the best of it – both now and into the future.