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New Nicholls Online degrees experience high demand

THIBODAUX — Two new academic programs introduced at Nicholls State University this spring attracted more than double the number of students expected. Nicholls Online, a program offering seven online degrees, has 77 students enrolled this semester, and a new online Master of Science in Nursing program started with 24 students.

“To have such high interest in these programs, before we’ve even heavily marketed them, is incredibly promising,” said Dr. Allayne Barrilleaux, vice president for academic affairs. “With the pilot launch of Nicholls Online, we didn’t expect enrollment to jump that quickly. The need in the region for high-quality online degree options is even greater than we thought. Nicholls Online is attracting mostly nontraditional students — many who already have some college credit — who could not have finished their degree through the traditional route. Our faculty are pulling together to meet this demand and are excited about future growth.”

As projected due to higher admission standards and better graduation rates, overall Nicholls enrollment is down slightly at 6,003 — a 1.4 percent decline since last spring. The decreased enrollment comes exclusively from part-time students (down by 90); the number of full-time students slightly increased (up by five).

Compared to last spring, this semester’s freshman enrollment increased by 1.8 percent due to improved retention and a larger fall 2012 incoming class. About 88 percent of fall 2012’s first-time freshmen returned this spring, which is a 2.4 percentage point increase over last year’s retention rate. Nicholls also retained all 30 of its Valedictorian Scholarship students from last fall.

In their continued efforts to boost student enrollment, administrators are working on several new initiatives. Next month, Nicholls will break ground on a new facility for the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute, which will allow the program to increase its enrollment from about 300 to more than 500 culinary students. This fall, the university’s College of Business Administration will introduce a maritime management degree concentration through a partnership with the maritime industry, including some of the world’s largest maritime firms.

“For Nicholls to remain competitive, we must continue to evolve and offer new degree programs that meet the demands of students and employers,” said Dr. Stephen T. Hulbert, university president. “Attracting and serving new student populations is what will help generate much-needed revenue for Nicholls and ensure a strong future for this regional university.”

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