The University of New Orleans is making measurable strides toward improving enrollment, increasing research and strengthening partnerships thanks to the efforts and dedication of hardworking employees.
That’s the message President John Nicklow shared with faculty and staff Thursday, Sept. 22, during his biannual State of the University Address.
“We exist and are making great strides because of the work of each and every one of you,” Nicklow said. “You make me proud to be your teammate.”
The University is key to the city and region, he said. An economic impact study released in June showed that UNO generated $470 million for an eight-parish region. That’s about $17 for every $1 UNO gets from the state.
“That’s an incredible return on investment and it’s a return I have shared with legislators from all over the state,” he said.
Increasing enrollment is Nicklow’s top priority and recent numbers indicate there is cause for optimism. New students and transfers are up slightly, with a 7 percent increase in transferring students. The percentage of African-American freshmen enrolling is up 22 percent year-over-year. The 2016 freshmen class’ average ACT and high school GPA are unchanged over the previous year.
“I’m happy to say that we’ve increased new students without sacrificing quality,” Nicklow said.
Growing enrollment is a three to four year project, he said, and the indicators show UNO is moving the needle in that direction.
UNO sustained a $1 million budget cut under a new funding formula from the Louisiana Board of Regents that heavily impacted four-year institutions, leaving UNO with $100.2 million, 28 percent of which is provided by the state. Under a challenge issued by the Louisiana Legislature, Nicklow said he also expects the Board of Regents to ask the University to re-examine programs with few graduates getting their degrees annually.
“The Board of Regents will likely continue its shift to a more outcomes-based distribution formula,” he said. “And we, as a campus, must emphasize similar outcomes going forward.”
Total extramural funding for research in 2015-16 was $48 million—more than double the funding from the previous year. But much of that was from a single contract administered off-campus.
“We know we can do better,” Nicklow said. “And we will do better.”
Giving to the University is up. The UNO Foundation endowment now stands at $68.4 million. In one year, the donations to the annual fund were up 21 percent, unrestricted giving was up 20 percent and gifts generated through the student-staffed Calling Center are up from $18,000 to $43,000.
Additionally, UNO has raised nearly $250,000 for Making History, a week-long celebration in November that will include the Distinguished Alumni gala at the National World War II Museum and the Presidential Investiture on campus. Proceeds from these events will go to support scholarships and student success efforts by the UNO International Alumni Association.
Twenty-three recruitment and retention action teams made up of faculty and staff volunteers are focused on a host of initiatives aimed at supporting and engaging students for long-term success. Using dollars from the new student success fee, UNO is in the process of hiring professional advisors to work with students through the colleges, serving as career mentors.
UNO has joined a national consortium of universities using predictive analytics to help send up red flags whenever a student needs support. The University is also using private dollars to work with Lipman Hearne, a higher education marketing firm, to ensure its message is resonating with prospective students, he said.
Nicklow said he’s also focused on boosting research through a number of initiatives that include expanding travel grants to faculty researchers this year, giving faculty a greater share of grant money previously earmarked for indirect administrative expenses and tripling the amount of start-up money for new faculty compared with last year. The University is currently searching for a new vice president for research who can help elevate research campus-wide.
As president, Nicklow has delivered more than 60 talks on- and off-campus to spread the word about UNO. And what promise to be fruitful partnerships are emerging. UNO this fall has already signed agreements with Delgado Community College and Northshore Technical Community College designed to help students transfer seamlessly to UNO.
“I realize that there is much more work that needs to be done for this university to reach its full potential,” Nicklow said. “However, I can say with confidence that we are building the foundation for success … The progress that we are making is real, and it is all because of your efforts and your dedication.
“I can honestly say there may not be an institution in America with more opportunity ahead of it than the University of New Orleans,” he said. “But the only way for us to capitalize on that opportunity is through a collective spirit of purpose and resolve.”