To: Faculty and Staff
From: Stephen T. Hulbert, President
When I spoke before the Faculty Institute much earlier this fall, I noted a slight decline in enrollment and indicated an intent to share more detailed information on the matter once it became available. What follows is material developed by Ms. Renee Hicks of Institutional Research.
An examination of the enrollment for the Fall 2003 semester at Nicholls State University shows a slight decrease of 70 students, under one percent, to a total headcount of 7,262. Although fewer students are enrolled, those students are taking more credit hours. Total credit hours increased by 241. The average student load increased from 12.28 to 12.43. Throughout the last decade, enrollment has remained relatively stable with the range fluctuating only 117 students of a 7,301 headcount. Below is a more detailed analysis of this year’s decrease and other trends in enrollment.
Nicholls State University is a regional university. Historically, the majority of students attending NSU are from the eight-parish region surrounding the institution. In 1994, 82.6% of the student body was drawn from this region, with 75.1% of entering freshmen coming from the region. In 2002, the eight-parish region supplied 81.3% of the entire student body and 73.5% of entering freshmen. The percentages for 2003 are 81.6% of the student body and 76.1% of the entering freshman class.
Close ties to the region create a direct correlation between graduation classes in local high schools and the incoming freshmen class for the University. The number of first-time entering freshmen for the Fall 2003 reflected a decrease from the previous fall of 41 students. Examination of the area high schools shows a similar decrease in the graduating classes. The eight-parish area combined graduating class dropped by 38 students, which was a decrease of 0.7%. For Fall 2002, 16.1% of this region’s graduating class began their college careers at Nicholls. For Fall 2003, 16.4% of the region’s graduates are attending Nicholls. While the region experienced a loss of graduates, Nicholls was able to maintain, even slightly increase, the percent of graduates from the region.
Upon closer examination of the data from individual schools in the region, there are a variety of increases and decreases. In general, Terrebonne Parish’s graduating class actually increased by 13.4% (147), while Nicholls experienced a decrease of 5 students (-1.6%) in the number of entering students enrolling from that parish. The most significant decreases occurred at H. L. Bourgeois High School and Terrebonne High School. In Assumption and Lafourche parishes, Nicholls experienced decreases similar to the decreases experienced in the graduating class parish-wide. The most significant decreases in Nicholls attendance were at Thibodaux High School and Central Lafourche High School, whose graduating classes had only a slight decrease. The graduating class at South Lafourche dropped more substantially while NSU maintained the enrollment from that school. In Ascension, St. Charles and St. Mary parishes, the graduating classes had actually decreased from the previous year. Nicholls enrollment increased in all three. In St. James and St. John parishes, Nicholls had increases in enrollment similar to the increases in their graduating classes.
With the implementation of the Board of Regents Master Plan and the TOPS scholarship in the state of Louisiana, many other important changes have occurred in the makeup of the incoming students. In 1994, 67.4% of the entering freshmen at Nicholls from the state of Louisiana needed developmental courses. The average ACT score of all entering freshmen was 18.91. In 2002, Louisiana freshmen needing remediation dropped to 52.7%. Those freshmen had an average ACT score of 19.33. Fall 2003 has seen a continued increase in the quality of students coming into Nicholls. The average ACT for the Fall 2003 entering freshmen has increased again to 19.50. Only 47.7% of the incoming freshmen will require remediation. The need for remediation has decreased almost 20% in the ten-year period.
The demographic makeup of the Nicholls State University student body has seen some changes also. In 1994, the student body was 82.8% white and 17.2% minority enrollment. In 2003, the student body is composed of 76.1% white and 23.8% minority. The gender makeup has remained steady. The female population in 1994 made up 61.7% of the total population and now is 63.6%. The percentage of non-traditional students, age 25 and over, was 37.2% in 1994 with a mean age of 25.54. We now have 28.7% of our student body non-traditional and a mean age of 24.07.
Enrollment in some programs has decreased in the last year. The most significant decreases have occurred in the areas of Teacher Education, Computer Information Systems and Agriculture. The College of Education suffered the largest decline in enrollment. Through the efforts of accreditation agencies and the state’s effort to redesign the teacher education curriculum, there have been increases in the standards required of students in that area. As expected when standards are raised, enrollment has declined. As students become aware of the increased standards, the expectation is for enrollment to increase once again. The result will be a higher quality teacher being produced through the teacher education program.
Some programs are experiencing an influx of students. Biological Sciences, Performing Arts, Chef John Folse Culinary Institute, Allied Health Sciences, Family and Consumer Sciences, and Nursing have all seen major increases in enrollment this semester. The College of Life Sciences and Technology experienced an overall increase of 13.3% with the addition of 165 students to its ranks.
With this steady trend of quality students enrolling, we are predicting a continued stable enrollment. Nicholls State University has seen increases in the last year of retention of freshmen students. The percent of Fall 2002 returning for a second year was 57.3% compared to 54.9% the previous year. When TOPS students are examined separately, entering freshmen receiving the TOPS scholarship were retained at 74.9% compared to 69.4% the previous year. The Junior and Senior classes for Fall 2003 are both showing increases over the previous year.
I hope this information is helpful and offer my appreciation to Institutional Research for the effort to provide analysis regarding fall enrollment.