LSUA has highest percentage growth among state's four-year public universities (2024)

Melinda MartinezAlexandria Town Talk

Unlike most universities across the country that are facing declining enrollments, Louisiana State University of Alexandria, has seen their enrollment numbers increase.

Compared to other public four-year institutions in the state, LSUA has had the fastest percentage growth on campus and online for the past few years, said Dr. Paul Coreil, chancellor of LSUA.

Achieving milestones

LSUA achieved another milestone this spring when the largest class in their history graduated with 438 students, noted Coreil.

When spring enrollments for universities typically decrease, LSUA saw an increase for their 2024 spring semester with 5,405 students enrolled. That was a 35.5% increase over the 2023 spring enrollment. The 2023 fall semester had 5,104 students; a 24% increase over the 2022 fall semester.

LSUA expects to surpass those numbers once the fall semester begins, expecting to have 6,000 students enrolled, said Coreil.

Over 70 percent of the students come from the 14-parish region but students from all 64 parishes represented, as well as all 50 states and 28 countries, he said.

Low tuition, fees attract students

Coreil said that of their students don’t qualify for grants and scholarships but they’re eligible to go to college. Since they are paying their own way, affordability is critical.

Cost and location were factors junior accounting major Theodore Vicknair of Alexandria considered when he chose LSUA.

“This is one of the cheapest four-year universities in the state,” he said, adding that he's lived in the area for 15 years and lives close by.

Small classes beneficial

The ratio of students to professors is also low with 25-28 students per professor, said Coreil. That gives students the opportunity to meet with them and get guidance.

“Some of your large universities, the classes are 300, 400, or 500 students and you just cannot see your professor,” said Coreil. “LSUA still has the quality, the availability for students to get really special treatment.”

Mary Clark transferred from LSU in Baton Rouge to LSUA to pursue an aviation degree. Since LSUA and Louisiana Tech in Ruston are the only schools in the state that have flight schools, choosing which to attend was a big decision.

After touring both schools, the junior from New Orleans chose LSUA because she felt that LSUA cared more about the students.

She met aviation instructor Shari Drerup who told her that LSUA was more like a family.

“And she was right. Everybody here helps each other,” she said.

Since Clark attended LSU, she already experienced what it was like to be a student at a large university and found out it wasn't the right fit for her. She felt Louisiana Tech “gave off that same feel” and she felt like she would be a "number" there.

Vicknair considered the University of New Orleans, LSU and Louisiana Tech. He thought UNO was too far. He doesn’t like big cities so that turned him away from LSU. To attend Louisiana Tech, he would have had to rent a house, or an apartment and he didn’t want to do that.

Clark and Vicknair both like the small classes.

"You get to have more one-on-one of the teachers and I benefited that many times,” said Vicknair.

“One on one is a big thing here,” added Clark.

Another of her aviation instructors, Bill Blackburn, knows the students personally and where they are progressing in their classes.

“He has his own little tabs on everyone, and he does everything that he can to help us succeed,” she said.

Clark said she has her instructors’ and professors’ phone numbers, and they are always willing to help.

“We recently had a new accounting instructor come in and she’s pretty good. She knows what she’s talking about. Every time you ask her a question, she goes really in-depth into whatever topics we ask her,” said Vicknair. “The other accounting instructors, if you need help, they’re there to help you and they’re very reassuring.”

When Vicknair had trouble in his first couple of semesters in accounting, his instructors helped get him back on track.

Work ready graduates

Coreil said the mission of the university is to meet the needs of the community by providing a work-ready workforce and that’s something they take very seriously.

LSUA is a different university than it was five or even ten years ago, Coriel said.Parents, students, high school guidance counselors and employers have seen that LSUA wants to be relevant to workforce development and have degrees that are important to local industries.

Nursing and Business are two of their largest programs.

LSUA had a 100 percent pass rate on the NCLEX exam that nursing graduates have to take to become licensed.

“A 100 percent pass rate is very, very rare. The average is around 78% nationwide,” said Coreil. “So, we're proud of that hundred.”

They just received funding to build a state-of-the-art health campus in downtown Alexandria to address the nurse and allied health professional shortages.

“Our goal is to double the number of registered nurses that graduate,” he said, adding that if they had the students, they could currently fill at least 550-600 registered nurse positions.

LSUA has added several programs such as accounting, computer science specialists and cybersecurity to address worker shortages in fields where they are needed, said Coreil. An aviation program was started to address the shortage of airline pilots.

“We're getting ready to add agriculture and forestry degrees,” he said, adding that they are getting ready to submit a proposal to the Board of Regents. “We have a big ag industry in Central Louisiana and a big forestry industry.”

LSUA offers degrees that are relevant to Central Louisiana employers, so students don’t have to leave Louisiana to find a good paying job, said Coreil.

Vicknair said the business department visited Cleco and he would like to work there, or even Crest Industries or RoyOMartin.

Many local employers also provide internships so students can get experience while attending college.

To further help students, Coreil said they added a tutoring center to help students in their classes and a career center to help with career changes, internships and being career ready.

Coreil said they are getting ready to add a Student Success Center.

Meeting non-traditional students’ needs

“The non-traditional student has always been a hallmark of LSUA,” said Coreil.

Many of the programs offered are now online so it’s beneficial to most students, particularly non-traditional students who are older adults who have jobs, families and or other commitments.

"Online education is really a convenient way of getting an outstanding education without having to spend as much time traveling and going to class in a classroom,” said Coreil. “And we've been very successful in presenting online degrees.”

Traditional students

“But we have a lot of high school students that come right out of high school like traditional college students do,” he added.

LSUA representatives visit high schools and meet with superintendents and high school counselors periodically throughout the year.

Coreil credits LSUA’s communications division with getting the word out about LSUA through social media, billboards and traditional media and having students share their stories.

Housing and food service is available for those who want to live on campus.

"We're getting ready to add more housing because we have a waiting list because of our growth,” said Coreil.

Helping Central Louisiana thrive

Coreil moved from Baton Rouge to Alexandria five years ago so he has an interest in making the community the best that it can be.

He feels a strong educational system can help reverse the population decline the area has experienced over the last decade and see it increase as more graduates are able to get jobs and build a life here.

“We all want to see a community that thrives, and that's what we're excited to be part of,” said Coreil.

LSUA has highest percentage growth among state's four-year public universities (2024)
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