Louisiana Public Universities Report Fall Enrollment Increase

Despite countless obstacles leading up to the start of the 2020-2021 school year, nearly across the board, Louisiana public universities saw higher student enrollment numbers for the fall semester than in previous years, as reported by the Advocate.

In fact, several public universities across the state saw record-breaking statistics, such as Louisiana State Universityin Baton Rouge and Northwestern State University seeing their largest classes in the histories of either school. Similarly, Nicholls State University is holding its largest class since 1990 with similar increases to enrollment observed by the University of New Orleans, Southeastern Louisiana University, and LSU campuses in Eunice, Alexandria, and Shreveport.

The only school to have a slight dip in enrollment numbers for the Fall 2020 semester was the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, but president of the University of Louisiana System, Jim Henderson attributes the school’s enrollment decline to a nearby school district. He remarked that due to the Lafayette Parish school board’s delay in activating the dual enrollment program, which allows current high schoolers to enroll in collegiate sources, attributed to the decrease in enrollment in an otherwise “good recruitment year.”

The increase in enrollment for most universities certainly came as a shock to the state, collegiate communities, and the schools themselves with the Covid-19 pandemic casting a hazy shadow on the specifics of how the upcoming school year would be affected. Earlier this fall results from a survey of 433 senior admissions officials detailed that 60% were “very concerned” about meeting their institution’s enrollment goals for the fall.

Similarly, Gallup conducted the 2020 Insider Higher Ed Survey of College and University Admissions Officials, and they found that most colleges expected there to be a general decrease in enrollment for the 2020 semester. Earlier this year as colleges around the country closed down to slow the contagiency of the coronavirus, many officials in higher education were anxious about enrollment numbers dropping, and they launched task forces to calculate and mitigate the expected losses.

President Jim Henderson told the Advocate, “we had a lot of uncertainty this year. We’ve been through a lot: tumult, pandemic, campus closures, now storms.” The University of Louisiana System, for which Henderson is the president, oversees nine four-year institutions that educate 91,000 of the state’s approximately 215,000 post-secondary students.

The increases in enrollment data comes from campus censuses conducted by the Board of Regents, who oversee all public colleges and universities. The data is required in an official capacity, as a few weeks following a school’s opening of classes, they are to report their “Enrollment Counts,” and being that each school’s opening timeline differs from school-to-school in a traditional year, the data comes in on a varying timeline.

One particular school that was set to receive more students than in previous years was McNeese State University, but with the damages accrued by Hurricane Laura, the campus suspended classes, thus setting back the Regents’ timeline.

National job losses that accompanied the economic shutdown motivated many students across the state to improve their credentials and become more employable, resulting in the enrollment rise that puts Louisisna’s post secondary schools against the national expectation. Remarking about the recent drive by Louisiana students to improve their economic outlook is the University of New Orleans president John Nicklow, who told the Advocate, “In recent months, we have learned a number of lessons about how to be more flexible and better support our students in completing their degrees; those lessons will help us serve our community and state far into the future.”

UNO added 144 more students this semester, bringing the total enrollment up to 8,375 students, which is 1.75% higher than the previous year. Additionally, 20% more freshmen students enrolled. President Nicklow stated, “especially in light of the pandemic, a college education will be even more important.”

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Nicholls Fall Semester Reaches Highest Enrollment in Nine Years

For the first time in nearly a decade, Nicholls’ Fall semester enrollment numbers are at its highest total due to record-breaking retention rates and increase in online students, as detailed in a press release from the university.

The 2020 Nicholls’ Fall semester reportedly enrolled an impressively high 6,780 students according to the traditional class size statistic taken on the fourteenth day of classes. This enrollment number is the largest since 2011, and the year-to-year increase of 4 percent is the largest since 1990.

This statistic comes as a third consecutive year of record-breaking retention rates since this Fall semester saw 74.4 percent of first-time freshmen returning for their sophomore year. Compare this to the national average of 61 percent,and you’ll quickly see that the accolades received by Nicholls State University have been awarded dozens of times over.

Nicholls Online, the University’s online degree program that allows students to complete a degree from start to finish in an accelerated 8 week format, saw an increase of 15.7 percent in its Fall 2020 enrollment. This is partially due to the recent national pandemic, but it’s also a tribute to the program’s recent years of success, as it’s recently been expanded in the past few years, and it continues to be praised for its quality and affordability.

Overall, the enrollment record is seen as a monumental testament to the high quality of education one can attain at Nicholls State University, especially since this increase is so substantial during a time of national pandemic. The University’s Executive Vice President for Advancement and Enrollment Services, Dr. Alex Arceneax commented on the achievement in the University’s press release by stating, “even during these unprecedented, challenging times, we received an overwhelming message from our student body and the Bayou Region; they want to be at Nicholls State University.”

He went on to add that he feels that the trusts the faculty “to provide the Nicholls Experience – top-notch academics and the best student experience in the state – in a safe way. We have amazing recruiters, faculty and staff who give it their all to provide the very best for our students.”

In addition to the Nicholls’ fall semester enrollment increase, Nicholls’ top degree programs were reported with its Nursing program and Health undergraduate department seeing the largest numbers. As of the 14th day of the Fall 2020 semester, the programs’ numbers are:

  • Nursing Program: 921 students enrolled.
  • Business Administration and Computer Information Systems” 733 students enrolled.
  • Allied health with 512 students enrolled.
  • Biological sciences with 486 students enrolled.
  • Teacher education with 436 students enrolled.

In addition to this, Allied Health saw one of the largest increases in its program size when compared to other undergraduate departments, as its increase was an 18 percent growth from last year, second only to Chemistry and Physical Sciences’ 24 percent growth. Other undergraduate programs receiving recognition for their department’s growth are Social Science’s 19 percent increase and Art’s 11 percent increase.

For any interested parties, the Institutional Research Department at Nicholls annually releases its enrollment statisticsvia the University’s Office Of Institutional Research, Effectiveness, and Planning (IREP). The Director of Enrollment Services, Courtney Cassard evaluated the high retention rates, attributing it to the students being better prepared for the challenges that come with successfully passing that first year.

When interviewed by The Nicholls Worth, the school’s independent news organization, she reportedly stated, “It’s a team effort with faculty and staff, in order to progress you through your degree. So, that was a big attributing factor to the increase.”

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NFL Draft Picks out of Louisiana Colleges

The last Saturday of the 2020 NFL draft, Saturday April 25th, was another big day for players from universities in Louisiana.  In total, ten players from universities of The Pelican State were drafted into NFL teams, of which four were from LSU, two from Tulane, two from Louisiana Tech and two from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.  Two more LSU players went in the fourth round, which gave LSU a record-tying total of 14 players in the three-day draft.  The record is now shared with Ohio State, who produced 14 draftees in 2004.

Although the following recaps those Louisiana ten athletes that were selected on the last Saturday of the draft, it should be highlighted that the first NFL draft pick was that of LSU’s quarterback Joe Burrow, who led the team to a national championship after a 15-0 season.  Burrow was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals.

Among Louisiana’s big Saturday draftees were LSU’s offensive tackle Saahdiq Charles, who was the second overall pick in the round, chosen by the Washington Redskins.  He started nine games in LSU’s national championship season of 2019.

The 12th LSU player drafted was Rashard Lawrence of LSU.  Touted as being good at the point of attack and holding his ground well against the run, he is remarkably seasoned, having started 34 of 44 games he played while at LSU.  Lawrence was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals.

A solid and accomplished blocker, guard Kevin Dotson of UL-Lafayette, the second Ragin’ Cajun offensive lineman drafted (after Robert Hunt), was picked up by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Louisiana Tech saw two of its stars drafted back-to-back in the fourth round when defensive back L’Jarius Sneed was chosen by the Kansas City Chiefs (2020 Superbowl champions) and corner back Amik Robertson was snagged by the Las Vegas Raiders.  Sneed is known for being a spectacular leaper and returning three interceptions for touchdowns at Louisiana Tech.  Roberston is described as an “electric talent” who plays with attitude and fears nothing.

Tulane star wide receiver Darnell Mooney was picked up by the Chicago Bears at pick 173.  He is remarkably fast and a consistent deep threat who scores nearly every time he touches the ball.

Long Snapper Blake Ferguson of LSU went to the Miami Dolphins.  Ferguson is an elite talent and was notably the only exclusive long snapper chosen in the draft.

At pick No. 237, Tulane cornerback Thakarius Keyes was picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs.  Keyes, also known as “Bopete” was a two-year starter for the Green Wave of Tulane and started in all but one of the 24 games he competed in.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted University of Louisiana (Lafayette) running back Raymond Calais in the seventh round.  Calais is small, but is a fast and effective gunner which could increase his chances of starting for the Bucs.

Finally, LSU tied the record in the NFL Draft with a 14th selection as their tight end Stephen Sullivan was picked up by the Seattle Seahawks. Sullivan, a converted wide receiver, has a huge catch radius. He is big, but excels as a receiver as opposed to a blocker.  Although he was often lost in the crowd at LSU with so many great wide receivers, he was still picked up due to his intriguing talent on the field.

In sum, the coming years should be a great time for pro football enthusiasts in Louisiana as we go on to watch some of our favorite college ball athletes show off their talents on the NFL gridirons.

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