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University enrollment increases by 103 students, 14 full-time undergraduates

Photo by: Caroline Callais

Photo by: Caroline Callais

Photo by: Caroline Callais

University enrollment increases by 103 students, 14 full-time undergraduates

September 15, 2016

Nicholls State University’s enrollment increased by 14 full-time undergraduates this semester, bringing the total number of undergraduate students to 5,647. The total enrollment including graduate students is at 6,267.

According to the 14th class day statistics for the Fall 2016 semester, Nicholls had a 103-student enrollment increase from Fall 2015 to Fall 2016. The biggest increase in enrollment comes from part-time students, which is up this semester by 139.

Part-time students consist of early admission, dual enrollment, cross enrollment and any other student taking less than 12 hours of courses. According to enrollment statistics, early admission students have been on the rise for the past three years. These are the students who are taking college-level courses in high school to get a jump start to their college career. Not all of these students, however, become true-degree seeking at Nicholls after graduating from high school.

Although Nicholls enrollment for part-time and full-time students increased, statistics show that the graduate students enrollment is down 50 students this semester. First-time freshmen enrollment is also down 74 students from last fall.

Neal Weaver, vice president for Institutional Advancement, explained that the probable cause of this decrease was due to TOPS scholarships.

“There’s a lot of people in Louisiana that have been counting on TOPS as their way to get to college,” Weaver said. “With the uncertainty surrounding TOPS and the reduction in it, we think it had a big impact. If the TOPS program can come back and be fully funded, we believe that we will see an increase in full time enrollment first-time freshmen.”

In Nicholls State University President Bruce Murphy’s State of the University address last year, he said he wants to increase enrollment to 8,000 students, focusing on programs such as PETSM, the Culinary Institute and the partnership with Fletcher Technical Community College. The University’s goal was to increase enrollment to more than 300 students in the Culinary Institute, and more than 500 students in PETSM. Murphy also said that he wanted to increase the enrollment of international students to more than 170.

The Culinary Institute increased by eight students this semester since the opening of the new Lanny D. Ledet Culinary building. On the contrary, PETSM saw an 86 student drop from last year. Also, international students enrollment is down 36 students from last fall.

“Many of the students in PETSM are working and going to school,” Weaver said. “A lot of the companies that were funding tuition and reimbursement are getting dried up and people are getting laid off. The combination of fewer people working in the industry, fewer opportunities to work your way up in the industry, and less companies willing to do the tuition reimbursement, has hurt this program.”

Weaver also explained how enrolling international students has not been a priority for the University.

“We don’t do a lot of recruiting internationally,” Weaver said. “We have good and bad years. We would like to be more aggressive internationally but we just haven’t been able to focus a lot of our resources in that area right now.”

In a Nicholls Worth article that came out last March, Courtney Cassard, director of enrollment services, explained how during the first online international college fair, 600 students visited Nicholls’ virtual booth.

“We also made a commitment to recruit international students, so we’ve participated for the first time in some online college fairs that are specifically targeted toward international students,” Cassard said.

The programs that are flourishing on campus are Nursing and Biology. Nursing, the largest program on campus is up to 843 students from 755 last year. Also, biology gained 41 students this fall.

Nicholls has been working on growth through freshmen retention rates. According to a press release sent out by the university on Tuesday morning, there has been a record-setting 70 percent first-time freshmen retention rate this year. The university implemented focused freshmen-level math and English pilot courses to decrease first-time freshmen dropouts.

Nicholls also has an orientation program that helps ease students into campus life and provides them with the knowledge of all resources on campus to give them a better chance at a successful college career. Hana Calhoun, junior dietetics major from Houma, has been part of the orientation team this past year.

“I honestly do believe that the orientation program helps with freshmen retention rates,” Calhoun said. “We show them various clubs and organizations they can be a part of and give as much of our own personal experience and knowledge to them as possible.”

Weaver explained that retention rates among African American students have also gone up. This year, Nicholls was able to close an 8.1 percent gap between white and African American student retention rates by 2.5 percent. In one year, Nicholls saw about a six percent improvement in the retention of African American students.

“We are excited about this because we do not want our institution to be a place where certain groups of students have a better chance to succeed than others,” Weaver said.

Overall, Nicholls is hoping to continue to increase enrollment and retention rates.

“There’s so much good news,” Weaver said. “Retention rates across the board are up with every classification of students. We think this is the start of a really good trend for us.”

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