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September 14, 2011

ULM higher standards yield “quality over quantity” enrollment

ULM President Nick J. Bruno said the university has aligned its standards with those set forth by the Louisiana Board of Regents and the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors as it adopts a “quality over quantity” attitude related to enrollment, recruitment and retention.

Preliminary total enrollment figures have stabilized at 8,515 for the fall 2011 semester which, in combination with the fall 2010 preliminary enrollment figure of 8,858 students, reflects tightened admissions criteria and contributes to the culture of excellence permeating the University of Louisiana at Monroe campus this fall, according to Bruno.

As part of its strategic plan, ULM has seen increases in enrollment figures for every category of full-time students, including graduate students and doctoral students, up 21 percent and 61 percent respectively.

The International student population at ULM has also seen a 24 percent uptick, and first-time freshmen bumped up 9 percent this fall. All of these are quality students who are more prepared than ever for the rigors of university work, according to Bruno.

As an example, Bruno pointed to the marked increased in ACT averages since 2002, which now stand at 21.8, the highest ever.

Looking ahead to the fall 2012, ULM merit scholarships will become even more competitive and awarded to students with evidence of promise.

“ULM has exceeded many of the defined statewide performance goals set forth by the Board of Regents in the Louisiana Grad Act,” Bruno said.

“And, as a consequence of the more stringent standards, evidence shows our students are graduating from this university on-time and in record numbers.”

Total undergraduate degrees awarded have jumped over the last three years, starting with the academic year 2009-10.

ULM graduated the largest number of students in the history of the institution last May when 865 students earned their degrees, while total graduation numbers for the academic year 2010-11 (December, May, and August) bumped to 1,537 students.

The BOR dual enrollment program also continues to grow as motivated high school students throughout the region earn college credit while still enrolled in high school, according to Assistant Vice President of Enrollment Management Lisa Miller.

The program empowers students to accelerate their degree programs and shorten time to completion. 

“These students are being taught by SACS certified teachers in our high schools,” explained Miller.

“Many of these teachers have returned to school themselves to receive the necessary credentials to be certified, so that their students could have the opportunity to earn college credit for rigorous high school courses.”

The fall 2011 semester marks the first full academic year for ULM for Bruno who, prior to the start of the semester, shared with faculty and staff some of his aspirations for the institution.

Chief among them is attracting top-notch students within the region, the state and abroad.

"For example, because we have a high percentage of students who matriculate in dual enrollment programs, the university has sought partnerships with schools in Iberville Parish and New Orleans," said Bruno.

"These are heavy population centers where we have a desire to increase our presence."

Another area of emphasis for the academic year is increasing community college partnerships through the Louisiana Transfer Degree initiative and increasing the number of 2+2 agreements.

Using a streamlined process that encourages students with two-year diplomas to transfer ULM to complete a four-year degree, ULM has seen an additional 70-plus undergraduate transfers this academic year.

In addition, online programs are receiving a significant boost as ULM heeds a statewide initiative that addresses the needs of over 600,000 adults in Louisiana who have at least some college education and are ready to complete their degrees. Now at 924 students, the Gateway to Online Degrees program continues to grow at ULM, an increase of over 150 from last year.

Finally, new policies implemented this year require all students to have their fee bills paid in full prior to the start of school.

“Students were required to complete their financial aid information in a timely manner or establish a payment plan before the start of the semester.

In addition, residents were required to provide pre-payment last spring to reserve their rooms for the fall semester” said Miller.

“As we focus with intentionality on increasing the number of our full-time students, and cultivating students who embrace the challenges of college, as well as reaching out to graduate-level and international students, ULM is poised more than ever to provide excellent higher education opportunities to a growing population,” Bruno said.

“Our best days lie ahead.”

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