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Nicholls enrollment points to growth, retention

THIBODAUX – Nicholls State University recorded an enrollment increase again this spring – one of only three universities in the University of Louisiana System to show an increase from the previous spring.

The current enrollment of 6,304 is an increase of 70 students.

“We are proud of this continued growth,” said Dr. Stephen T. Hulbert, university president. “Nicholls has become a university of choice. This university vigorously recruits the better prepared students, not only in our region, but throughout the state and beyond. Our regional K-12 schools continue to better prepare their students.”

Perhaps the most significant improvement has come in retention, or the students who choose to stay at Nicholls after they enroll. This spring 85.36 percent of first-time freshmen continued their studies at Nicholls after their first semester – a 3.68 percent increase from the previous year. The retention rate for first-year students receiving Tuition Opportunity Plan for Students (TOPS) awards increased by 4.61 points to 92.33 percent – and of the 2007 high school valedictorians who accepted scholarships at Nicholls, 100 percent have been retained. Moreover, the retention levels of African Americans and other minority students – 86.43 percent and 87.80 percent, respectively – are the highest ever at Nicholls.

“We have implemented several initiatives to help retain our new type of student,” said Dr. Eugene Dial Jr., vice president for student affairs and enrollment services. “University College, for example, focuses on providing support in and out of the classroom during a student’s first year. Students are exposed to advising and tutorial services, attend a university studies class with students of similar majors and meet with professionals who discuss career-specific expectations and the realities of a chosen field.”

Other recruitment and retention initiatives include the growing dual enrollment program. Overseen by the Louisiana Board of Regents, the program allows qualified, academically committed high school juniors and seniors to take college classes for high school as well as college credit. The program currently includes 154 students from seven parishes.

These results are not chance, university officials say, but instead reflect a concentrated effort. When the university implemented selective admissions in the fall of 2005, additional resources were committed to ensure the student body continued to grow from that point.

“When we committed to selective admissions, we didn’t forget the commitment we already had to diversity,” Dial said. “We are heading in the right direction, growing academically while maintaining a diverse student body.”

The overall minority enrollment at the university has grown by 4.4 percent over the past 10 years to reach almost 22.9 percent of the overall student population.

Enrollment of African-Americans alone has jumped from 14.7 percent to nearly 18.5 percent in the same time period.Nicholls will continue to aggressively recruit better prepared students from the region, state and beyond while improving campus life and services. These initiatives should lead to steadily increased enrollment.

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