Louisiana State University of Alexandria Grows in a Difficult Climate for Public Colleges and Universities

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John W. Dysart
The Dysart Group, Inc.

The enrollment management landscape is rapidly changing for public colleges and universities. For decades, these institutions have been under somewhat less pressure to produce net revenue and shape their classes. The combination of generous state subsidies and extremely competitive pricing models in comparison with their private school counterparts mitigated the impact of changing demographics and stagnating federal and state financial aid. It?s a different ballgame and public colleges and universities must recognize new challenges. Note between 2008 and 2013:

  • States reduced public college and university subsidies per student by an average of 28%
  • Eleven states cut their subsidies by more than one-third
  • Two states cut subsidies in half
  • One state increased tuition by 65%
  • One state increased tuition by 111%

Louisiana State University of Alexandria had been struggling with enrollment. The institution had experienced a decade of steady decline. The appointment of a new Chancellor has reversed the trend. The new Chancellor jokingly summed up part of the challenge, “Originally, our university was state-funded, and then it was state-supported, and then it was state-assisted. (Now) it’s moving to become state-located.” Dr. Daniel Howard came to LSUA from Arkansas State University. His extensive experience at a number of schools in a broad range of administrative positions, including a stint as Dean of Enrollment Management, prepared him for the challenge. A two-pronged strategy that included dramatic programming initiatives and the implementation of a new recruitment plan produced an enrollment turnaround.

LSUA partnered with The Dysart Group to implement a new recruitment plan. Dr. Howard vowed to apply a ?private school? recruitment model to the struggling public university and significant changes were immediately introduced:

  • New tracking reports were designed and generated to monitor progress throughout the enrollment funnel.
  • A telephone outreach center was established to communicate individually with qualified, prospective students.
  • The LSUA Foundation helped fund the creation of a new scholarship and grant program designed to recognize academic talent and meet financial need.
  • Systematic communication with prospective students included electronic mechanisms such as text messaging and email along with traditional direct mail.
  • Major changes were made with regard to financial aid policy and process. The new emphasis was on making LSUA affordable and notifying students of their financial aid eligibility as early in the cycle as possible.
  • The Chancellor directed changes in current programming and was instrumental to the introduction of new opportunities for students.
  • A greater emphasis has been placed on dual enrollment for high school students. The new emphasis effectively serves the students and families at local high schools but also provides high school students the chance to experience the quality educational product at LSUA.
  • New athletic programs have been started to attract both student athletes and students wishing to participate as fans.
  • New academic programs are being offered.
  • ROTC will be an option for students beginning next year.
  • LSUA now offers a competitive Honors Program to attract highly qualified students.

The combination of the new recruitment model and program changes immediately produced results. This Fall, the University posted impressive enrollment outcomes.

  • Total enrollment at the University increased by 21%
  • The number of newly enrolled transfer students grew by 28%
  • Students participating in dual enrollment soared 121%
  • The number of newly enrolled freshmen increased by 16%
  • The University registered an increase in total credits of 22%
  • Fall 2014 represents the largest enrollment in more than 15 years
  • Despite an increase in residence hall capacity of 25%, every bed is full

Success at LSUA required the active participation of the entire campus community. Student Services, Enrollment Management, Financial Aid, Academics and Development all contributed to the exciting results. Enrollment realities have been altered significantly for many public colleges and universities. The experience of the team at LSUA provides a meaningful and effective model for other public institutions beset by subsidy cuts, tuition increases, demographic changes and competition.

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