Southern University seeks new enrollment

Southern University is banking on identifying students who “represent the best fit” for the campus, improving student services and waiving some out-of-state student fees to get it close to its goal of recruiting 1,000 students next year.

Southern’s Baton Rouge enrollment has dipped from nearly 9,500 students to about 6,600 students over the past several years in part because of the state-required tougher admission standards phased-in seven years ago.

Falling enrollment coupled with fewer state dollars set aside for higher education over the last five years has put Southern in one of the most-precarious positions of any university in the state.

The school declared a financial emergency, called exigency, in 2011, making it easier to downsize staff and consolidate programs.

At the Press Club of Baton Rouge on Monday, Al Tezeno, Southern’s associate vice chancellor for student success, said the school has a multipronged plan to reverse the misfortunes of the last several years.

Plans call for increased outreach to high schools for recruiting, better use of data to find the type of motivated students who are more likely to adjust well to college life and beefed-up online services making the admissions, enrollment and registration processes more convenient for students, Tezeno said.

And while, financial distress is the main reason students don’t finish school, Tezeno said Southern can do a lot to mitigate those issues with better outreach programs for students laying out the most-efficient path to graduation.

The idea that has the greatest potential to be an enrollment booster is Southern’s plan to waive, for qualifying students, about $3,000 of fees out-of state students currently pay per semester.

Southern will waive out-of-state fees to students from Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas, provided they have a 2.7 high school grade-point average and score at least a 20 or 940, respectively, on the ACT or SAT standardized test, Tezeno said.

Students from states that don’t border Louisiana are eligible for the fee waiver if they have earned a 3.0 high school GPA and receive a 23 or 1030, respectively, score on the ACT or SAT, he said.

Tezeno said Southern is also planning to work out more-seamless transfer agreements with community colleges.

Last year, Southern introduced the SUSLA Connect program, where students who could not meet regular admissions requirements were allowed to enroll in classes through the Southern University System’s two-year school, Southern University at Shreveport.

Those students were considered community college students but got the benefit of living on the four-year campus in Baton Rouge. LSU plans to follow a similar blueprint this fall with its Tiger Bridge program, a collaboration with Baton Rouge Community College.