Southern University celebrates enrollment increase

Staff Writer
Donaldsonville Chief

For the first time in years Southern University is celebrating an increase in enrollment. While the gain is small, it breaks a string of 300 to 500 student enrollment declines each fall over past several years.

 In the fall semester of 2012 Southern's enrollment reported to the state Board of Regents was 6,611. Tentative enrollment numbers for fall 2013 is 6,667.

 "This is great news for Southern University, our alumni and all of our supporters," Chancellor James L. Llorens said Thursday. "The increase might be small, but it is not a decrease. We are very pleased."

Llorens said the enrollment shift is due in part to several reasons. There was an extra emphasis placed on the recruitment of freshmen, he said. The university continually stayed in contact with high school seniors who were admitted to Southern.

"Add to that, we had a good product to sell," Llorens said, "and our alumni groups around the country stepped up their recruitment efforts in the area of first-time freshmen."

 Overall, first-time freshmen numbers rose from 743 in the fall of 2012 to 1,115 in the current fall semester. "That increase is major reason why our enrollment is showing there is light at the end of tunnel," Llorens said.

While celebrating the new numbers, Llorens said the university will continue to increase its recruitment effort, but will place a strong focus on retention.

"We want to make sure that every student who is qualified, and who wants to attend Southern, is not held back because they can't pay tuition," Llorens said.

"We also will redouble our effort to work with students who have academic challenges that may hinder their progress at Southern," he said, adding, "we will make available every avenue available to help  them become successful."

The chancellor said Southern's new enrollment numbers signals Southern's hard work to overcome huge state budget cuts and the loss of revenue from falling enrollment over the past several years.  "Those cuts are painful, but we have done things, such as redesigning our course offerings and reshaped our departments to fit the needs of our students, while dealing with tough funding losses," he said.

"We are already working on 2014," Llorens said. "We must continue this trend."