The enrollment of first-time freshmen for the fall 2012 semester at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux rose by 10.4 percent while overall enrollment fell an expected 2.5 percent, university officials said Friday.
Larry Howell, NSU’s executive vice president, attributed the freshman enrollment growth to stepped-up recruitment efforts; and the slip in total enrollment to record graduation numbers last year that can be tied to higher admissions standards.
“In the old days, before admissions standards, we would bring in a lot more students but graduate a lot fewer,” Howell said.
The number of incoming first-time, fall-semester freshmen at Nicholls rose from 1,135 in 2011 to 1,253 this year, for a gain of 118 students, officials said in a news release.
Fifty-seven percent of this year’s freshmen are Taylor Opportunity Program for Students state scholarship recipients, a 4.4 percent increase over the number of fall freshmen with TOPS scholarships at Nicholls in 2011, university officials said.
Total enrollment fell by 168 students, from 6,774 in fall 2011 to 6,606 this fall, officials said.
Last year, about 1,260 students graduated, which Howell said was the third year of record graduation numbers.
The rest of the shortfall into total enrollment can be attributed to natural attrition, low unemployment in the Thibodaux area and increasing admissions standards for transfer students, he said.
Howell said admissions standards, which began in 2005 when open enrollment ended and were tightened further in 2009, have brought in better-prepared students able do college-level work.
He said that means students are graduating faster than in the past.
Students finish in four, five or six years rather than six, seven or eight years.
“It took longer to go through the path. Now it doesn’t take that long,” Howell said.
While enrollment has fallen, some programs at the university have continued to grow, including nursing, petroleum services and culinary arts, university officials said.