Nicholls enrollment continues to climb

THIBODAUX – More students are choosing Nicholls State University as their institution of choice for a four-year baccalaureate degree despite recent state budget cuts to higher education, which resulted in the elimination of five low-completer programs and two 2-year programs that should be offered at a community college.

“The enrollment numbers are very encouraging,” Dr. Stephen T. Hulbert, university president, said. “From the Bayou Region and beyond, we are welcoming more and more students of an increasingly high academic caliber. Their education is our primary mission, and while Nicholls is facing financial challenges, our commitment to protect and strengthen our academic core will always be paramount.”

Nicholls enrollment statistics for fall 2009 indicate a 3.7-percent increase, or 255 students, from fall 2008 – bringing the total enrollment to 7,185. Graduate student enrollment increased by 5.8 percent. These increases continue a positive trend of steady, yearly growth at Nicholls since fall 2006, when enrollment totaled 6,804.

Prior to 2006, enrollment figures were slightly higher because Nicholls had not yet become a selective admissions university. In the last year of open admission, fall 2004, the enrollment was 7,482, and although higher admissions standards resulted in an initial drop in enrollment, the marked increase in average ACT scores of first time freshman students can also be attributed to the new standards and other improvements at the university. Between fall 2004 and fall 2009, ACT scores of first time freshman students rose from 19.72  (with 53 percent having an ACT of at least 20) to 21.52 (with 75 percent having an ACT of at least 20), indicating an influx of students better prepared for university studies.

Moreover, 59 percent of first time freshman students in fall 2009 are Taylor Opportunity Scholarship (TOPS) recipients.

Another indicator of improved academic commitment is participation in the Early Start Program (formerly the Dual Enrollment Program), which allows high school students to enroll simultaneously in university-level courses. Fall 2009 enrollment in the Early Start Program exceeds the fall 2008 enrollment by 45 students, for a total of 315.

Retention of first time freshman students increased as well, from 65.64 percent in fall 2008 to 66.4 percent in fall 2009 – a 0.76-percent boost. The retention of African American students increased 3 percent.

Nicholls students are also growing more diverse geographically. While Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes continue to provide the bulk of enrollees – 3,717 – Nicholls is attracting more students from outside its immediate service area. Enrollment of out-of-state students, international students and state residents from beyond the surrounding eight parishes increased by 2.7 percent, 6.1 percent and 10.6 percent, respectively.

“However, the university is educating mostly Louisiana students,” Larry Howell, associate provost, said. “More than 94 percent of Nicholls students are Louisiana residents who will mostly stay in Louisiana.”