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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