To: The University Community
From: Stephen T. Hulbert, President
This fall semester was to have been highlighted by Nicholls State University’s transition to selective admissions standards and for the institution’s completion of preparations for the reaffirmation of accreditation by the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges * Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC). Unfortunately, the unanticipated visit of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita as well as the almost overwhelming events in the aftermath of these storms has focused University community attention in very different areas.
Now, as we complete mid-terms and again focus our collective attention on the remaining work of the academic semester, it is also appropriate to revisit the status of fall enrollment and preparations for the reaffirmation of accreditation.
Our shared vision for Nicholls guided our efforts over the past seven weeks in maintaining a quality institution of higher education dedicated to meeting the unique geographic and multi-cultural needs of south central Louisiana and beyond. Certainly, the challenges we have faced together in the storm aftermath has reflected that commitment.
As life was disrupted in the New Orleans area and many of the parishes, towns, and cities along the Gulf coast, Lafourche Parish, Thibodaux and Nicholls State University were challenged to open their collective doors to fellow Louisiana and Mississippi citizens in need. Over the past month and a half shelters on the Nicholls campus have played host to upwards of ten to twelve thousand evacuees. Additionally, there are 645 visiting students from Delgado, UNO, Xavier, SUNO, Holy Cross, Tulane, Dillard, Loyola and others colleges and universities throughout the Mississippi Gulf Coast and New Orleans area.
The good news about Fall 2005 enrollment is that once the fourteenth class day passed the final University enrollment total reflected a modest increase of 49 students (0.7%) to 7,531. First-time freshmen (FTF) brought with them a record average composite ACT of 20.51, a substantial increase from last year’s 19.73. Additionally, exceptions to the admissions standards amounted to 12.5% which was below the threshold limit set by the Board of Regents.
The challenging news involving Fall 2005 enrollment that we face together is that the number of visiting students from other institutions masked a significant decline against this time a year ago. Without those displaced students the University’s enrollment would have been 6,886 a substantial and disturbing decrease of 596 or 8.0% from Fall 2004. Some of this loss of enrollment was anticipated due to the implementation of the new admission standards and involved a decline of 348 first-time freshmen against what was anticipated to be a 300 to 350 decline. Some of this loss was related to a 150% increase in resignations prior to the 14th class day, most of which were hurricane related. Also, the University faced an unanticipated decrease in transfer students (237 from 335 * 29.3%) and readmit students (399 from 510 * 21.8%). Some of this later decrease may be due to a smaller number of students than anticipated not being admitted to the Selective I and Selective II schools due to the new admission standards. Another factor contributing to this decrease may have been an incorrect assumption by potential readmits that they were required to meet the new admission requirements. Also, the appreciably lower cost of community colleges tuition/fees may have been a factor.
Community members wishing to review enrollment data in detail are invited to visit the University website at http://www.nicholls.edu/ir/Publications/Enroll%20Stats%20Fa05.pdf. The following summary information was derived from that data:
Although retention rates decreased from the record high of last year (64.3% down to 59.9%), actual retention head counts increased in many areas (up 50 FTF retained; up 89 FTF on TOPS retained; up in all FTF retained by each ethnicity group; up 82 retained over all classifications).
Historically, the majority of students attending Nicholls are from the eight-parish region surrounding the institution. Last year, 85.0% of the student body came from this region. Currently, 83.9% of ‘regular’ students are coming from within this region. When considering these students, all eight of these parishes experienced a decline. If the ‘displaced’ students are factored in, five of these parishes increased and three experienced a decrease.
Enrollments considered by major, whether in the senior colleges or University College, have seen an increase in some programs for this semester. General Business, Accounting, Psychology, Finance, and Petroleum Services experienced the largest increases in enrollment (ranging from up 80 to up 13). Finance, Sociology, Petroleum Services, General Business, and Geomatics experienced the largest percentage increases (ranging from up 30.0% to up 20.8%). Slight increases were evident in Biological Sciences, Mass Communication, Mathematics, Manufacturing Technology, Family and Consumer Sciences, Culinary Arts, Communicative Disorders, and Nursing. The only area of graduate studies that increased was the new Master of Science in Community/Technical College Mathematics.
At the undergraduate level, the largest decreases in the number of majors were evident in General Studies, Marketing, Agricultural Business, Teacher Education, Computer Information Systems, and Pre-Engineering (ranging from down 58 to down15 majors). The largest decreases by percentage at the undergraduate level were Agricultural Business, Pre-Engineering, English, Marketing, General Studies, and Computer Information Systems (ranging from down 38.7% to down 11.8%).
The largest programs in a Bachelor’s program are: Nursing (868), Teacher Education (766), Biological Sciences (463), General Business (453), and General Studies (406). The smallest programs included: Music (19), Geomatics (29), Agricultural Business (31), Pre-Engineering (37), and Chemistry (37).
Displaced students were originally enrolled at Delgado (265), UNO (219), Xavier (37), SUNO (26), Holy Cross (21), Tulane (19), Dillard (18), Loyola (10) and others (30). Most of these students (89.6%) are from one of the eight parishes surrounding Nicholls. That is why only a few of these students needed housing accommodations.
This semester has been very challenging to the entire community. The future is also a challenge because of budget constraints and the uncertainty concerning enrollment. With challenges come opportunities. We have an opportunity to better define Nicholls, its offerings, and its contributions to this region and state. More students could make Nicholls their number one choice! We, as a community, have the opportunity to make Nicholls the place to ‘Learn, Live and Lead’!