The University of Louisiana at Lafayette, along with schools nationwide, have experienced a decline in student enrollment for the past few years.
According to the New York Times article titled “U.S. College Enrollment Dropped Again in the Fall of 2021, Despite the Arrival of Vaccine,” even after vaccines were accessible to students, there was still a decrease in universities’ student body numbers.
“Total undergraduate enrollment dropped 3.1 percent from the fall of 2020 to the fall of 2021, bringing the total decline since the fall of 2019 to 6.6 percent — or 1,205,600 students,” the
Vice President of Enrollment
Management DeWayne Bowie said how UL Lafayette’s adaptation to the current COVID-19 environment has added to the declining number of enrollments.
Entering the Spring 2022 semester, the university instructed some professors
to deliver their classes remotely until told otherwise. On Feb. 4, the university announced the return of classes to their original instructional method.
According to Bowie, many students were having a hard time adjusting to online learning; therefore, they decided not to attend college for the time being.
“So many have chosen to delay that college entrance, or even delay attending college until things went back to what we
call “normal” which is a more face-to- face interaction for them,” Bowie said. Other factors such as affordability,
job opportunities and family issues contributed to the overall decrease, according to Bowie.
However, UL Lafayette’s enrollment recently underwent a change of pace with the recent freshman class. According
to Bowie, there have been signs of stabilization for the enrollment rate that provided hope for the institution.
“We had a really robust freshman
class this past fall. We had about a 16% increase in our freshman class,” Bowie said. “So that tends to lead to higher enrollment down the road when those students are returning.”
To expand recruitment efforts, the university has designated recruiters for Texas cities like Houston and Dallas
due to their high school graduation
rate. Bowie shared how Louisiana’s high school graduation rate was either flat or declining, so many Louisiana colleges are competing to bring in students.
“So pretty much a lot of colleges are in Texas now because of the number of high school graduates that they’re producing. And we’re in there as well making sure that we let students know what’s great about our university,” Bowie said.
Along with new enrollments, the university is taking action towards ensuring students who either dropped out or took time off get informed on ways to come back.
According to Bowie, the university recently established an administrative position that is responsible for speaking with students who left the university
or are attending another university and thinking of coming to UL Lafayette.
“They recruit transfer students, and they also recruit students who stopped
out at the university and did not earn a degree. So they’re communicating with them pretty regularly,” Bowie said.
The university also has methods already in place to try to keep the enrollment and retention rates up.
To ensure they get the opportunity
to hear why some students might have doubts or issues with attending UL Lafayette, administration relies heavily on faculty-student communication.
UL Lafayette faculty members have
a closer interaction with students as
it pertains to classroom performance and social life on campus, and many are advisors as well. Bowie shared how advisors get a chance to hear what students have to say before they make that final decision to leave to see if they could help motivate them to stay.
“And so that’s what we have in place to try to catch students that apparently enrolled that may be having some difficulties,” Bowie said.
A new system of communication is also in the works, according to Bowie. The university will be sending text messages to students to inform them on events and to guide students to the resources needed to ensure they stay in school.
According to Bowie, they anticipate the texting system to be in effect within the next six months to a year.
“So as an institution, we’re going to make sure that we’re not inundating them with texts that are unnecessary.
But they’re going to be at critical points to let students know if there’s something new or if there’s a new update or let them know that people are here to help you if you need them,” Bowie said.