NATCHITOCHES, La. (NSU) - Northwestern State University’s enrollment this fall of 10,572 is the highest in the school’s 133-year history. The registration count is up by 753 students, or 7.7 percent, over last fall’s enrollment of 9,819.
The previous enrollment record was 10,546 in 2004, which was the year before selective admission policies were established at the university. Enrollment has been up for four consecutive years at NSU, and the 7.7 percent growth this fall is the largest year-to-year enrollment increase at Northwestern in 25 years.
A major factor in the university’s record enrollment is the significant growth in the number of first-time freshmen at the school over the past three years. NSU enrolled 1,542 new freshmen this fall for an increase of 82 students, or 5.6 percent, over the fall of 2016. Freshman enrollment has grown by 31 percent over the past three years.
Increased retention rates have also contributed to Northwestern’s expanded enrollment. The retention rate in the freshman class increased from 68.8 percent of students returning for their sophomore year in 2016 to 74.6 percent this fall.
Enrollment increased this fall on the main campus in Natchitoches, the Shreveport and Alexandria campuses and other sites which include online classes. The student count on the Leesville-Fort Polk campus, which is affected by military assignments, was down from 280 to 248.
Dr. Chris Maggio, who has served as president of the university since January, said, “This fall’s record enrollment is certainly one of the most meaningful milestones in the university’s long history. That growth reflects Northwestern’s positive image and reputation in higher education here and across the region and nation and underscores the extraordinary efforts of our admissions and recruiting personnel.”
He stated, “The university is attracting and retaining more students with greater potential for success than ever before because of its outstanding and innovative academic programs, positive student experiences and the school’s vibrant, family-like atmosphere.”
Maggio added, “It is remarkable that Northwestern has reached its largest enrollment ever during a difficult and challenging time for colleges and universities in our state. That is a tribute to the dedication and hard work of our world-class faculty and staff, the strong support of our alumni and the university’s close relationships with schools and communities throughout Louisiana and in surrounding states.”
Freshman Kristen Prejean of Lafayette said Northwestern’s faculty has made a favorable impression on her. “The faculty truly care about helping us excel so that we can pursue our dreams,” stated Prejean, a biology major.
She said, “All of the people are so friendly and welcoming, and everyone makes you feel like you’re family. There is an opportunity for everyone to get involved in at least one organization on campus. It’s wonderful to come to a university where the president can call students by their names and be so interactive.”
Maggio pointed out that unprecedented financial support from alumni and other donors also helped provide the impetus for the all-time high enrollment. Northwestern received $4.7 million in private gifts and matching funds for scholarships and other programs in the first six months of this year, the most in history outside of extended capital campaigns.
“That private funding for scholarships assisted the university in attracting more high school graduates with strong academic potential and in retaining larger numbers of students,” the Northwestern president said.
Maggio said a number of campus renovations and improvements have also made the university more appealing to students. He cited as an example Varnado Hall, an old dormitory that was renovated and transformed into a 21st century living-learning residential center for students in the School of Creative and Performing Arts.
Karlee Littleton, a freshman nursing major from Pineville, said, “I chose Northwestern because it felt most like home. My ideal university is something similar to a close-knit community, and that’s what NSU provided for me. After being here for a few weeks, I can definitely say that I made the right choice to become a Demon. Everyone is so kind. Even people you pass on the sidewalk smile and ask how you are doing.”
Much of the momentum for record enrollment has been provided by new and expanded academic programs, Maggio said. The university initiated a new Doctor of Education degree this fall and has added doctoral degrees and other graduate level degrees and certification programs in nursing and radiologic science in recent years.
Northwestern’s Computer Information Systems program in the College of Business recently won its 17th national championship in CIS competition, and the university has created a competency-based program that allows student in computer information systems to complete degrees and certification programs in far less time and at reduced costs.
Maggio said growth in the School of Creative and Performing Arts “reflects that program’s expanding reputation as a state-designated Area of Excellence.” He said Northwestern’s “academic image has also been enhanced by the Louisiana Scholars’ College, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year as the school’s only designated honors college.”
Northwestern also remains a leader in Louisiana in online education. Nine online academic programs at NSU have been ranked in the top 10 in the nation by groups that evaluate higher education academic programs.
For more information on Northwestern State, go to nsula.edu.