Southern University Enrollment Falls More Than 5 Percent from Last Year

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by The Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. – LSU and other area public colleges saw small student enrollment gains this fall while Southern University’s enrollment continued to decline. That’s according to figures reported Wednesday.

Southern’s enrollment for the fall semester dipped below 7,000 students, a drop of more than 5 percent since last year, according to figures reported to the Board of Regents.

In addition to LSU, The Advocate reports that Baton Rouge Community College, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Southeastern Louisiana University and Capital Area Technical College all saw minor enrollment gains this year.

Despite fewer freshman and graduate students compared to last year, LSU had a small overall enrollment gain from 28,771 students to 28,985, because of more returning students, largely from LSU’s near-record freshman class last year.

Southern’s enrollment declined from 7,294 students last year to a 6,915 headcount this fall. But, last week, Chancellor James Llorens feared the enrollment might have dropped as low as 6,700 students.

“It’s better than we feared,” Llorens said. The initial projection was for 7,000 students.

Llorens attributed additional losses to problems with the new BANNER registration and financial aid process that stalled students receiving money to pay their bills.

“We lost some students just out of frustration,” Llorens said, promising they will try to bring them back to the university.

Southern enrolled nearly 9,500 students as recently as 2004.

Back at LSU, the enrollment is nearly 29,000 students, although Chancellor Michael Martin wants to expand to as much as 33,000 students. Martin also wants to increase the graduate student body to 20 percent of the total enrollment. Graduate students currently make up nearly 16 percent.

As for BRCC, the community college has grown each year in its 12-year existence. BRCC saw a nearly 2 percent leap from 8,332 students last year to 8,476 this fall.

BRCC interim Chancellor Jim Horton said he is pleased with small growth, despite the university nearing its capacity on a campus that has little room to expand. There are tentative plans to develop a satellite campus to the northeast near Smiley Heights.

“It’s a lively place,” Horton said. “There’s a lot of people here.”

He said most of the growth is coming in newer niche academic programs like avionics, veterinary technology, sonography and the school’s already popular process technology program.

BRCC’s growth is playing a part in forcing Horton to delay and revamp construction plans to close off Community College Drive to prevent vehicles from speeding through the middle of campus.

Partly because of the larger enrollment, Horton said he is concerned the design plans would reroute too much of the traffic on Cloud Drive on the eastern end of campus.

The state construction project was supposed to have begun earlier this summer. Horton said he has no new timetable yet as they attempt to adjust the design plans with the city and state.

“There’s just more cars coming and going than anyone anticipated,” Horton said.

As for other colleges, Capital Area Technical College grew from 3,902 students last year to 4,249 this fall. But most of that growth was on the campuses in Plaquemine and New Roads.

The Baton Rouge campus enrollment stayed flat at nearly 2,500 students.

UL-Lafayette saw a small enrollment hike from 16,763 students to 16,885 and Southeastern gained from 15,351 enrolled to 15,414 students.

UL System President Randy Moffett credited the schools with having aggressive recruiting policies in population areas that have growing higher education demands.

But some other UL System schools had sizable declines.

Nicholls State University dropped 4.5 percent from 7,093 students to 6,774. McNeese State University in Lake Charles shrunk 1.7 percent from 8,941 students to 8,791.

Moffett said some schools are experiencing drops because they decided to toughen admission standards ahead of state-mandated changes.

“I don’t think we’re surprised by that,” Moffett said.

By bringing in better students and improving retention and graduation rates, Moffett said, enrollment levels should stabilize.

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