Martin Hall Stock

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette has seen a decrease in its enrollment for the fall 2020 semester.

Overall enrollment dropped 1.1%, or by 225 students out of 19,403 from last year, according to enrollment management.

Jamie Hebert, UL Lafayette’s provost and vice president of academic affairs, said COVID-19 affected students’ lives in multiple different ways.

“We’re down in some of our nursing programs which is highly unusual for us,” Hebert said. “But you know nurses who might be returning to school are working double shifts, they’re on the front lines of the pandemic, and they just don’t have the time, or the energy probably, to return to school right now.

“So it’s a combination of some students, I imagine, wanting to stay home, but it’s also a matter of the general impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people’s decisions to go to school.”

Some of the losses came from students who had planned on attending during fall 2020, but for one reason or another they chose to delay enrollment or enroll somewhere closer to home, according to DeWayne Bowie, vice president for enrollment management.

UL Lafayette’s graduate school enrollment is actually up this semester, according to Bowie. The university had been seeking to grow its graduate school for several years, and even with COVID-19 complications, they saw a continued growth this semester.

A lot of UL Lafayette’s current enrollment strategies are years old, but Bowie said the university might use the digital meetings and tours more as a result of the current situation.

“One thing that I think we’re going to seem to do more, cause right now we’re not able to do as many or as large a scale of in-person events or things of that nature,” Bowie said. “And so now we do Instagram Live, Facebook Live sessions with students, where they can see us virtually and we’re probably going to continue doing those things even after COVID.”

Beyond the livestreams, the university has also used digital tours and digital meetings, in which potential students can find more information on housing, the different academic colleges and financial aid.

Hebert also said they are working to set up more gap scholarships, or scholarships for students who have a hard time affording college at this time. He said these scholarships are largely funded by individual donors, and the university has been reaching out to its donors and alumni to try and raise its scholarship funds.

The university has also been focusing more on bringing in ex-dropout students, those working adults who went to UL Lafayette, but never completed their degree. They’ve developed what Hebert referred to as completer programs, which allow the student to pursue an all-online degree in general studies and business.

“We’re tweaking away from traditional students so that we can get a larger swathe of the Louisiana population in our recruiting efforts,” Hebert said.

Hebert said the university is looking into making more of these programs for different degrees, but said it could take time to develop them.

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