In The News › University of New Orleans enrollment drop has silver linings for Nicklow

Sep 20, 2016

Source: | The Times-Picayune

University of New Orleans enrollment drop has silver linings for Nicklow

By Beau Evans | The Times-Picayune

September 20, 2016

Student enrollment at the University of New Orleans fell for the seventh consecutive year, according to figures the school released Monday (Sept. 19). The number of students in the university’s undergraduate and graduate schools dropped to 8,037 for the fall semester, down almost 5 percent from last year and a far cry from the pre-Hurricane Katrina peak of 17,360 in 2003.

In particular, enrollment among graduate students decreased 12 percent this year. Undergraduate enrollment was also down, but slightly less so at around 2 percent.

Despite the decline, the university’s president, John Nicklow, said he sees bright spots among the dim numbers. The number of first-year freshmen and transfer students held firm, as did retention among those students — both key indicators that for Nicklow, may mean the long decline is beginning to level-off.

“These numbers are not unexpected,” said Nicklow, who is entering his first full academic year as the university’s president. “In fact, I’m pretty pleased and optimistic. We’re laying a foundation to head in the right place.”

First-time freshmen and transfer students tallied 1,689 students, seven more than last year. The university also boosted its first-year student retention rate two percentage points to 64.1 percent.

Improvement in those two indicators, Nicklow said, is critical for enrollment to start growing within the next three years — a goal he believes UNO can achieve. He has previously said he wants the university to reach the 12,000 enrollment mark within five years.

“You can’t turn around enrollment without first reversing the rate of decline,” Nicklow said. “I think that’s something we’re doing.”

To boost the retention rate further, Nicklow said he has launched a series of initiatives aimed at reeling in students and keeping them. Results have yet to materialize because they were put into place only a few months ago, but Nicklow said they target new transfer, minority, and first-generation students.

Additionally, Nicklow said the university has begun a more aggressive nationwide marketing campaign. For the first time at the end of last year, UNO purchased the names and contact information of students who took the ACT test and sent out about a half-million mailers across the country.

Through that effort, Nicklow hopes the university will draw more out-of-state students, though historically that’s been tough. He did not have figures on how many new students from outside the state had enrolled this year, but he noted UNO’s 81 out-of-state graduate students was about 23 percent more than last year.

To grow enrollment rather than just halt its decline, Nicklow said the university will have to boost its new-student numbers to around 3,000, all while shoring up retention.

“This is year one, as far as I’m concerned,” Nicklow said. “My goal is to have growth by year three. That’s where I think we can go if we have the right retention rate.”

Speaking at a Bureau of Governmental Research breakfast in July, Nicklow announced his intention to revitalize the university, improve enrollment and add new facilities. He emphasized the university’s impact on the region: 42,000 alumni and $470 million pumped into the economy.

Sep 20, 2016

Source: | The Times-Picayune

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