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LU reports record high student enrollment, increases in retention and graduation rates

This fall Lamar University student headcount is 15,460, which is the highest number of students ever enrolled at the university.  The number of students surpasses the fall 2016 headcount, previously the highest LU Students at tableenrollment, by 3.1%.

The University, historically a regional institution, is attracting students from out of the area for programs such as nursing, engineering, speech and hearing and education, and more and more students are taking courses online. 

“We have seen an increase in our online programs as well as transfer student population.  LU online programs provide students with access to a college education, regardless of their location or work schedules,” said Katrina Brent, assistant provost, enrollment management. “The transfer student rise can be attributed to enhanced communication to admitted students, and the increase in transfer agreements with our partner 2-year institutions, which create a clear path for students to a bachelor degree at LU.”

Several populations of students have increased as well. In the past four years, the number of Hispanic students has increased 43.2% from 2,138 to 3,062. The University has also seen an increase in the number of students with disabilities. In the last five years, the number of students with disabilities has increased from 150 students to 600.

“We have developed student support services for all populations through our Retention and Student Success office,” said Brent. “Every student on the LU campus has a success team that includes an academic advisor, career counselor, college success coach and financial aid advisor to ensure they stay on track toward their ultimate goal of graduation.” 

Subsequently, LU’s retention and graduation rates have increased.  The one-year freshman retention rate has increased nearly 8%; the four-year graduation rate has increased more than 40%.

The University attributes its improved graduation rate to an increase in admission standards coupled with increased academic, financial and personal support for students. LU has raised admission requirements including a student’s high school ranking, GPA and standardized testing scores.

“We’ve done a better job of showing students at community colleges a path that will allow them to come to Lamar University,” said Craig Escamilla, executive director of retention and student success. “Students admitted based on the new standards are more likely to be successful, and we see that in these graduation rates.”

Despite two natural disasters – Tropical Storm Harvey and Tropical Depression Imelda – LU has seen steady enrollment numbers, indicative of recovery, the area’s resilience and likely some of the university’s new programs designed to support and encourage students.

Escamilla said in the past couple of years, the university has rolled out many proactive programs to help students succeed.

“We have a new math pathways program that is creating a more degree-appropriate math path for students, because math has been a barrier to success for some students,” said Escamilla. “Basically, we’re making sure that students are in math courses that are related to and designed around their majors.”

The university has developed scholarship and financial aid packaging to ensure students get awarded relevant financial aid and support. Proactive alerts when tuition is due and several new tuition payment options have also helped students. Faculty and staff have worked to create a more collegiate atmosphere increasing student involvement in organizations on campus, participation in sporting events and establishing university traditions.

“We’ve done a lot of personal outreach and follow up with students, too,” said Escamilla. “We follow up with students around progress report time and do personal check-ins to see how students are progressing. All of these programs make a big difference and help us meet our mission of serving one student at a time.”