Despite beginning the school year amid a flurry of natural and pandemic-related challenges, the Fall-to-Spring enrollment retention of first-time freshmen at Nicholls State University is holding steady at the highest percentage rate in over a decade, as per this news release from the school.
As it’s true for many post-secondary learning institutions nationwide, the prolonged continuance of the COVID-19 pandemic and its lasting effects has cast a particular shadow on collegiate affairs, enrollments, and retention of students during the transition from the Fall to Spring semesters. In 2021, Nicholls students were facing an even more immediate and devastating disaster in the form of Hurricane Ida, which predictably led to an expected drop in Spring enrollment.
The University’s enrollment data for the Spring 2022 semester showed a 10 percent drop since Spring 2021, dropping from 6,165 to 5,531 students. Nicholls President Dr. Jay Clune reported that this result was expected. This expectation is due to the fact that the Nicholls’ community is still attending classes “amid an elongated pandemic” and still actively “recovering from a devastating hurricane.”
Attending school and earning an undergraduate or graduate degree amid a pandemic is quite the feat in and of itself, but Dr. Clune put the experience in perspective saying, “we have juniors here at Nicholls who have only known college through the lens of this pandemic. We understand how difficult that can be. I commend the students who have remained on campus and look forward to better days ahead.”
This past August, the Nicholls President announced that the University would begin restructuring its initial recruitment and ongoing retention strategies. On a whole, the restructuring efforts will be spearheaded by the Nicholls Office of Academic Affairs with Dr. Sue Westbrook, the provost and vice president for academic affairs, and Renee Hicks, the assistant vice president of Institutional Research Effectiveness and Planning, access, and success leading the charge.
Though only announced at the beginning of the 2022 school year, the positive impact has been immediately evident, as seen with this recent enrollment data. This year’s Fall-to-Spring retention of first-time freshmen at Nicholls was reported as being 90.5 percent, which is a total 7.9 percentage point increase from last year and the first time that the Freshman retention rate has remained above 90 percent in over ten years.
Renee Hicks commented on the positivity emitted from the milestone achievement by saying, “when we post retention rates like this, it means our entire campus community has come together to provide extraordinary support for our students during the recovery from a major hurricane on top of a pandemic.”
Dr. Clune was also one to attribute the strong retention rates to the efforts put forth by the Office of Academic Affairs. He said, “in addition to our strong retention rates, we also see applications are up year-to-year. I attribute that to our data-led approach to recruitment and retention by Ms. Hicks and her team. With a new marketing campaign and increased recruitment and retention efforts, we anticipate a return to an upward trend in enrollment.”
Colleges and universities calculate their annual retention rates by comparing the number of enrolled students (as of the 14th day of classes) and subtracting the number of students who have withdrawn or canceled their enrollment. Then this figure will be divided by the total number of enrolled students. This retention rate is then regularly compared to other universities in the area as well as the individual school’s rate across the years. This data is reported annuallyby the university and any fluctuations in data are typically attributed to a wide array of factors, but for Nicholls State University to have seen a milestone increase in freshmen enrollment retention amid a pandemic and natural disaster is certainly quite the feat of the academic institution.
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