Enrollment Increases Despite Pandemic

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Early indications project that Southern University’s student enrollment hasn’t been affected by the COVID-19 global pandemic. In fact, a preliminary report shows a nearly 1% increase, with the potential to be even higher.

The report was shared during the Southern University System Board of Supervisors meeting held last Friday in the J.S. Clark Administration Building. It compares student population data from September 2019 to September 2020 to identify potential trends and threats affecting enrollment. “It reflects quite candidly the strengths and opportunities of the Baton Rouge campus,” said Dr. Vladimir Appeaning who led the system campus presentations along with the other campus chancellors.

According to the report, 7,091 total students are currently enrolled at the Baton Rouge campus, up from 7,031 last year. Notable takeaways include increases from students in dual enrollment by 39%; along with the new first-time freshmen by 15%.

213 students were reported as being registered online, defined by Dr. Appeaning as students with classes within their major that were solely offered online. While the data shows a 42% increase from last year, Chairmen Rutledge still considers it ‘embarrassingly low’, urging board members to create a plan to raise those numbers by next month’s meeting.

Other noticeable decreases were found in the number of continuing graduate students (-21%) and adult learners (-33%). President-Chancellor Ray Belton was not discouraged however. “We have received inputs from [those] populations that say they were going to use this year as a gap year in light of their perception of safety,” said Belton.

Enrollment data will be formally recorded again at the end of semester to be reported to the Louisiana Board of Regents in January. Belton referenced the total student enrollment in Fall 2019 at 7,140, anticipating it to rise by the end of year.

“We anticipate and we are hopeful that that number will continue to grow toward the end of this year, and again reflects our ongoing effort to try to respond to students who have given an indication that their financial position has changed, and our ongoing work is to try to help them out nonetheless,” said President Chancellor Ray Belton.

Total enrollment numbers are up across the rest of the Southern University System as well. Of 200 AVA accredited law schools, the Southern University Law Center ranks in the top 10 in terms of growth. SUSLA (roughly 3%) and SUNO (roughly 5%) reported increases as well. Updated financial reports are scheduled to be released next month to better understand the impact enrollment will have on the university’s budget.

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