LAFAYETTE — A new program offered by South Louisiana Community College and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette was the deciding factor between Erin Harris choosing to attend college in Baton Rouge or Lafayette — where several of his family members graduated.
The “Ragin’ Cajun Bridge Program” enables SLCC students planning to transfer to UL-Lafayette the chance to receive the same benefits as university students — access to library services, recreational facilities, on-campus housing and admission to athletic and other events.
Those amenities attracted Harris, 19, of Houma, to a similar bridge program at Baton Rouge Community College and LSU, but Harris’ heart was set on going elsewhere.
“My mom and all her brothers and sisters went here (UL-Lafayette), so I wanted to keep up the legacy. This gives me the same benefits as kids who go here,” he said Thursday as he waited for his “Ragin’ Cajun” student ID card.
DeWayne Bowie, UL-Lafayette vice president of enrollment management, said the program is designed to acclimate SLCC students to the university campus.
“One of the biggest challenges for transfer students is making that transition. We want to ease that (transition) as much as we can ... This is all about you being successful,” Bowie told a group of about 100 students and their parents during an orientation Thursday.
Tougher admissions standards at UL-Lafayette and other four-year universities means some students need to build up their academic portfolio at community colleges before transferring to universities.
Rachel Alexander, SLCC’s admissions director, said that about 50 SLCC students registered for the bridge program and more registrations were expected during orientation Thursday on UL-Lafayette’s campus.
As part of the program, SLCC students take their courses at the community college, however, they’re able to take advantage of the benefits of the UL-Lafayette campus.
The program’s fee is $90 per fall and spring semester and $70 for the summer semester. Students must maintain six credit hours to be a part of the program.
Andy Benoit, UL-Lafayette director of admissions and recruitment, said SLCC students qualify for a transfer to UL-Lafayette when they complete 24 credit hours and maintain a 2.5 grade-point average.
Bowie said bridge program students’ academic progress will also be tracked and they’re required to meet with an academic adviser at least once a semester.
“It’s not optional,” he said of the adviser meetings. “It’s going to be valuable to you because (the counselor) is going to be tracking your progress and making sure you’re on track to a baccalaureate degree.”
Even after they transfer to UL-Lafayette, students will remain cross-enrolled at SLCC, making them eligible to receive a general studies certificate at 30 credits and an associate’s degree at 60 credits as they continue to pursue a bachelor’s degree.
The credentials the community college students build along their trek toward a bachelor’s degree will make them more attractive to employers, if they decide to work part-time while in college, Bowie said.
Eddie McClain, 22, who recently completed a SLCC technical program in Opelousas in nondestructive testing, said the bridge program benefits make the fee worth it. He said he will fulfill pre-requisite courses at SLCC until he can transfer into the chemical engineering program at UL-Lafayette.
Bridge program students can live on UL-Lafayette’s campus while still attending SLCC, a benefit attractive to parents such as Tiffany Earl, of Kentwood. Her daughter Natyja Cooper, 18, plans to major in kinesiology at UL-Lafayette.
“She’s never been away from home before,” Earl said. “I think it’s good that she’ll experience that and new things, and still be on a campus.”
Cooper doesn’t know where she’ll be living, but said it doesn’t matter.
“I’m excited about meeting new people,” Cooper said. “I always wanted to be a part of UL. I applied, but my ACT wasn’t high enough. When I learned about the (bridge) program, I was excited about it.”