The Wall Street Journal recently reported an enrollment decline among higher education institutions with this headline: “College Enrollments Fall Again, With Some Notable Exceptions.”
The May 30 article noted that overall enrollment at colleges and universities is down for the seventh year in a row, “continuing a trend that is putting pressure on many smaller schools even as some bigger schools thrive. Nationwide enrollment declined by 1.7%, or by nearly 300,000.”
“The enrollment decline has fostered mergers and closures, reductions in faculty and academic programs, and slashed budgets among America’s higher education institutions and is sending seismic shockwaves across the scholastic landscape,” said Dr. Rick Brewer, president of Louisiana College in Pineville, Louisiana.
The WSJ article said that four-year, for-profit colleges saw a 19.7% decrease in enrollment from Spring 2018 to Spring 2019, Brewer said. “That percentage pales compared to an increase of 3.2% among private institutions. Louisiana College, however, has fared exceedingly better than that with a Spring 2019 enrollment 7.2% higher than last Spring.”
Louisiana College is a “remarkable exception because of our historic and ongoing exceptionalism. Add to that our differentiating value proposition, which is the integration of faith and learning, and the reasons for our growth indicate that parents and students are averse to the worldview propagated at other schools. Rather, they seek a bona fide liberal arts education that underscores traditional family values and develops spiritual understanding through curricula that are relevant, relational, and rigorous. This is Louisiana College in a nutshell,” Brewer added.
“Our leadership team brainstormed in helping me build upon a vision that has garnered 11 percent growth since 2015 and will keep us growing well into the future. We developed a strategic plan and have faithfully followed it.”
Implementing that strategy has produced memoranda of understanding with Louisiana Tech University, with New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and with the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, the latter of which provides a seamless path of matriculation into Louisiana College for graduates from two-year schools. LC also has inked dual enrollment partnerships with public and private high schools.
“Innovative scholarships; additional academic programs, both undergraduate and graduate; a Summer Bridge program of remediation to give students a hand-up; and a faculty second to none, particularly with their compassion for students, are some reasons for Louisiana College’s sustained growth,” Brewer said.
Noting a record retention rate of 94 percent from Fall 2018 to Spring 2019, Brewer said, “Once students choose Louisiana College, they choose to stay.”
An $18 million negotiated insurance settlement from hail and water damage, as well as launching a multi-phase $5 million residence hall refurbishment project has contributed to retention and curb appeal.
Brewer said Louisiana College has “invested significantly” in landscaping because it ranks third on the list of criteria among prospective students. “The College has won several garden club awards, as well as the local Chamber of Commerce’s ‘Bizzy Award’ for curb appeal.”
These factors help put Louisiana College on track to “bring in classes of new freshmen of more than 300 for the second time in the past three years, an accomplishment occurring only twice previously in our 113 year history.”
“The results of hard work and God’s blessings reflect that our Vision of Preparing Graduates and Transforming Lives is not a mere marketing slogan,” Brewer said. “It is a reality that drives and sustains us.”