In The News › President John Nicklow wants 12,000 students at University of New Orleans in 5 years

Jul 21, 2016

Source: | The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Orleans Parish, Schools

President John Nicklow wants 12,000 students at University of New Orleans in 5 years

By Danielle Dreilinger | The Times-Picayune

July 21, 2016

In five years, new University of New Orleans president John Nicklow envisions a revitalized school — with 12,000 students.

“That is a lofty goal,” he admitted to an audience Thursday (July 21) at a Bureau of Governmental Research breakfast. Last fall, fewer than 8,500 students enrolled, according to UNO statistics.

Moderator Dennis Woltering spoke of a time now shrouded in mist, when UNO was riding high: new facilities, big plans and 17,000 students. Then came Hurricane Katrina, tougher entrance requirements and devastating state budget cuts.

Nicklow has spent part of his first four months on the job on a marketing tour, making more than 50 speeches and talks “spreading the word about why UNO matters to this city,” he said. At talk 50-and-something, he reiterated the university’s regional impact: $470 million poured into the economy, 42,000 alumni. The latter was vividly illustrated by a sea of hands when he asked alumni and family members to identify themselves.

“We’re providing the educational access and pathway to a better, more prosperous life for thousands of people and their families, most of whom end up staying here and building New Orleans,” he said.

Nicklow was full of details about initiatives to attract a variety of new students, including online classes, campus beautification and a new marketing campaign touting the university’s academic quality instead of “survival.” He spoke in particular depth about extensive efforts he began as provost to keep students enrolled; more than one-third of fall 2014 freshmen did not come back the next fall.

However, in a room that included Ben Johnson of the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce, Mark Mayer of Peter Mayer Advertising and Leo Marsh of AT&T, Nicklow did seem short on details about one of his other key goals: to build “business and community partnerships.”

He didn’t make a pitch Thursday to business leaders laying out what he wanted from them or how they could get involved, although Nicklow said previously he has reached out to individual businesses to discuss internships, donations and other ways they can support the university.

It could also conceivably be a fence-mending mission. As the University of Louisiana System board prepared to choose a new president for UNO, the New Orleans business community lobbied heavily for Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin to get the job instead.

Eskew+Dumez+Ripple principal Tracy Lea said afterwards that while academic growth was the right priority for Nicklow, “I was hoping to hear more about facilities development potential.” Perhaps there would be opportunities for “repurposing, new construction, planning.”

Sheraton area human resources director Tom Jones didn’t need those details: The company already partners with UNO business students. “We look to hire them and allow them to work their way through school,” he said, among other components of the program. “It’s a great vision,” he said of Nicklow’s speech. “That’s what you want: A university that can produce quality students/employees.”

Taylor Burns, a 2015 Loyola University graduate and seventh-generation New Orleanian, said she never even considered UNO when she was applying for college: “UNO didn’t do anything that made my family think about it.”

On Thursday, though, Burns was intrigued by the opportunity “to rethink what academia can look like.” Even with a degree in environmental engineering, she’s struggling to get her career started, working four jobs. “I still haven’t found that full-time gig, with salary and benefits,” she said.

Generally, attendees seemed to want Nicklow to succeed. “A lot of cities have similar community-based colleges and universities, and they’ve been very successful. I don’t know why this one can’t be as good or better,” Lea said.

Despite his five-year enrollment vision, Nicklow warned attendees not to expect too much too soon. At his last university, it took several years of solid effort to see a small uptick in the student body. “This is not a flash-in-the-pan solution,” he said.

Other topics Nicklow touched on during the audience question-and-answer period:

TOPS: One fifth of the university’s students used Louisiana TOPS scholarships last year. But they won’t get the full amount in the coming school year. “We’re going to do everything we can to help them succeed. The way we do that is to make sure we capitalize on every dollar on the table,” Nicklow said. Many TOPS recipients had not sought other aid, such as Pell grants for low-income students, so administrators pushed them to apply for federal student aid, he said: “To be honest with you, I’m going to use everyone else’s money before we use ours.”

Program cuts: Former UNO president Peter Fos cut a number of programs. Nicklow said he was getting away from that approach, and would instead reshape unpopular majors in response to local industry demand. “My goal is to not get rid of the credit hours. We need more students and more credit hours, not fewer,” he said.

Who’s qualified to attend? Lowering academic requirements is a bad idea, Nicklow said: “It’s not a good investment for the institution to accept students into our institution who have a low predictability of success.” However, he wants to change the state-imposed rules to “a more holistic review of the student.” Most notably, UNO requires a 23 ACT score. “The average ACT in Orleans Parish is about 18 1/2,” he said. So “I can’t admit the majority of students from Orleans Parish today.”

Jul 21, 2016

Source: | The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Orleans Parish, Schools

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