Nicholls State University will soon be able to offer need-based scholarships to help students return to campus after having previously left in the wake of Hurricane Ida. According to this news release from the school, a $100,000 disaster response grant will be utilized to create these scholarships, which will be helpful to students wanting to return to their degree plans.
It was announced by the university in May 2022 that a $100,000 disaster response grant was awarded by The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation. It was also announced that the funds would be utilized so that students who had halted their learning due to Hurricane Ida’s detrimental impact on the area would be able to qualify for a needs-based scholarship that would offset the cost of re-enrolling & returning to classes.
Nicholls State University President Dr. Jay Clune commented on BCBSLA’s award by saying, “even though others outside of South Louisiana have long stopped talking about the effects of Hurricane Ida, we are still feeling the impacts every single day. We are grateful for this partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield. I don’t like to think of where we would be without the support of our wonderful industry and community partners.”
In the wake of Hurricane Ida, the destructive Category 4 Atlantic hurricane that made its landfall near Port Fourchon on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, it was reported that an estimated 25% of Lafourche and Terrebonne Parish homes were destroyed or declared uninhabitable. Additionally, approximately two-thirds of the Nicholls community reported that their homes were destroyed or uninhabitable. Once the storm passed, the BCBSLA Foundation had committed $5 million in funds to areas affected by Ida, and other communities across the Gulf Coast also stepped up.
Earlier this year, The Courier reported that Nicholls State’s spring enrollment had dropped 10% from the previous year, attributing the decline to Hurricane Ida as well as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In August of 2021, Nicholls President Dr. Jay Clune announced that the school would essentially restructure its retention and recruitment strategies. As a result, the university’s decision to have recruitment and retention efforts managed by the Office of Academic Affairs, specifically being led by Sue Westbrook, provost and president for Academic Affairs, and Renee Hicks, assistant vice president of Institutional Effectiveness, Access, and success.
It was then reported that the university’s fall-to-spring retention rate of first-time freshmen had increased by 7.9 percentage points from the previous year to be listed at 90.5%. This was the first time that this retention rate had surpassed 90% in over a decade, thus signaling that Nicholls’ restructuring was beginning to pay off. Renee Hicks interpreted the data 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 commented on the promising data, saying, “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.”
Pair this earlier indicator of rising enrollment rates with these new needs-based scholarships established from The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation’s $100,000 disaster response grant, and it’s even clearer to see that not just the campus community of Nicholls is coming together to come out of Hurricane Ida stronger than before, but the surrounding community of Houma, Thibodaux, and the State of Louisiana is banding together as well.
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