Louisiana Higher Ed: Big bucks, declining enrollment and campus accessibility

Your weekly update on the higher education news that didn’t make the front page

By: - September 2, 2022 1:07 pm

The LSU Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to remove Troy Middleton’s name from the university’s main library, citing his refusal to honor Black citizens’ constitutional rights. (Photo by Julie O’Donoghue)

The Louisiana Illuminator is launching a new weekly feature – “Louisiana Higher Ed”  – that highlights news from universities and colleges around the state. Have a tip or want to submit a “Louisiana Higher Ed” news item? Contact Piper Hutchinson

Pandemic among factors cutting into enrollment 

After five years of record enrollment, Northwestern State reports that fall enrollment decreased more than 1,300 students from the 2021 academic year.  

The school attributes the decline to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has dropped student enrollment at colleges nationwide. In the first two years of the pandemic, undergraduate enrollment dropped around 1.4 million, over 9%. 

NSU President Marcus Jones said other factors contribute to the decline, including inflation, a shrinking college-age population, more jobs available for non-degree holders and the increased cost of tuition. 

“Studies are also showing that enrollment losses have been greater in parts of the nation like north Louisiana that have larger low-income and minority populations,” Jones said in a press release.  

University of Louisiana System President Jim Henderson pointed to the pressure students are under. 

“After two years of pandemic with five named storms, students are under immense stress,” Henderson said in the release. “Working age students with life and family obligations, a key student demographic for our member institutions, are particularly affected.”

Vanner Erikson, NSU interim director of enrollment management and director of recruiting, said the university is working to bring enrollment up again by enhancing communication with potential students and publicizing tuition waivers and other financial support for qualified students. 

Campus ADA accessibility under review

LSU President William Tate and student government are working on addressing the university’s Americans with Disabilities Act compliance issues

At an LSU Faculty Senate meeting Monday, Tate informed the faculty that LSU had received funding from the state legislature to conduct a study of the university’s accessibility problems. Tate said that LSU could use the results of the study to ask for more money from the legislature. 

“My guess is if we didn’t have the study this year, we for sure were going to get sued,” Tate said. 

Brooke Wrzyszczynski, director of disability services for LSU Student Government, told the LSU Student Senate on Wednesday her priority for the semester is to replace incorrect braille signs on campus. 

Wrzyszczynski said that about half of the funding for the project will come from the facility access fee charged to students, and a grant from Delta Gamma sorority will cover the other half. Wrzyszczynski expects installation of the signs to begin by the end of this semester. 


Nicholls teases documentary on its Ida response

On Aug. 29, the first anniversary of Hurricane Ida, Nicholls released a trailer for a documentary the university is producing about the storm and the school’s response. 

Nicholls, located in Thibodaux, is not far from where the storm made landfall. About two-thirds of the campus community reported damage to their homes, with one in five of their homes uninhabitable or destroyed. Some students were forced to drop so they could attend to their destroyed homes and provide for their families. 

The documentary will detail the build up to the record-breaking hurricane and the community-wide response to its destruction. Nicholls spokesperson Jerad David said that the documentary will most likely be released in November. 

The trailer also hints at the future work of the Nicholls Coast Center. The university will soon break ground for the $21 million project that aims to protect the coast from future storms. The center will bring experts together to work on research to rebuild the state’s coastline. 


Take that, Texas!

The School of Accountancy at Louisiana Tech received a $250,000 donation from alumni that will be used to support scholarships for students,programming, summer research grants and awards for publication in top academic journals.

Dick Fowler, an accounting graduate of the school, said that the gift was in gratitude for the education he received at Tech. 

“Upon moving from Louisiana to Dallas, I quickly got to compare my Louisiana Tech accounting education to those who had graduated from the University of Texas,” Fowler said in a press release. “I learned that my education was equal to, if not ahead of, those graduates and that I could be proud of the knowledge I had obtained at Tech.”

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Piper Hutchinson
Piper Hutchinson

Piper Hutchinson is a reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator. She has covered the Legislature and state government extensively for the LSU Manship News Service and The Reveille, where she was named editor in chief for summer 2022.