GSU fall enrollment takes a big uppercut

Grambling State University is one of the six schools in the nine-school University of Louisiana System that has seen a decline in enrollment. As the smallest populated school and only historically black university in the system, Grambling State suffered the biggest one-year difference, a drop 11 percent. 

GSU went from 5,071 students in the fall 2013 semester to capping only 4,504 students this semester. 

“The freshmen class is 300 students shy of its normal average,” said GSU’s Interim President Cynthia Warrick. 

In an interview with The Gramblinite in the Sept. 18 edition, Patricia Hutcherson, the university’s registrar, said low enrollment was due to a list of issues including: more selective state admission criteria, low number of student meeting GSU admission requirements, lack of financial aid eligibility and more students with personal financial difficulties. 

While GSU is the sure leader, other schools in the system are battling with recruitment and retention. Nicholls State University in Thibodaux experienced a 3.7 percent drop in enrollment, the second highest in the system, over the last year. The Colonels currently enrolled 6,298 students. 

However, the neighboring Louisiana Tech University has added more than 300 students since 2013. The Bulldogs educates 11,271 students this year. 

The biggest winner for the system is the University of Louisiana Lafayette, which collected 549 more students this year. 

Nevertheless, the future of the Grambling’s enrollment rests on the shoulders of Clarence Hayes, the new director of admissions and recruitment. Haynes has completely cleared house only keeping Dang Hui, international student advisor. 

“Everyone else is no longer here,” Hayes said. “Some positions have been moved to other departments, and some are no longer with the university.” 

Hayes has added two recruiters to his staff so far, Miss GSU 2012-2013 Geralka “Gerri” Jackson and Kyris Brown. The department still has three positions to fill, according to the GSU job postings: Transfer Recruiter and Enrollment Specialist; International Admissions Counselor and Tele-Counseling Coordinator; and Tech Support and Recruiter. 

The admissions department has set their goals high. They want to recruit 500 students for the spring and 1,404 for next fall. Hayes explains that the most difficult thing is recruiting students to fill the spots of graduating senior and then pushing forward to add even more freshmen and transfer students. 

Larnell Flannagan, the dean of educational, professional and graduate studies, said “one way to improve increase Grambling’s enrollment is to offer more online course and degree programs.” 

One of Hayes’ top points is to find new ways and revamping old ways to reach potential students. The recruiters have been contacting interested students earlier via email and snail mail and they are also looking to create an automatic telephone and text message system. 

He also plans to partner with Tracey Wright, the new director of communications and social media for GSU, to promote the university on the Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. 

Admission teams, with the help of the GSU cheerleaders, student government association and Orchesis Dance Company, have held recruitment trips at Pecanland Mall in Monroe and The Outlets of Louisiana Boardwalk in Bossier City. They also plan to head to Alexandria Mall on Nov. 8. 

Another big goal for the department is more private visits; so prospective students can get personalized, one-on-one interactions with Admissions staff, faculty and current GSU students. 

“Although we are a [viewed as] football school, it’s all about academics,” said Hayes, who received an undergraduate from the Mississippi Valley University and graduate and doctoral degree Jackson State University alumnus. He added his personal promotion for potential students is “if you can make it at a HBCU, you can make it anywhere in the world.”