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SUSLA Enrollment Largest Ever

University sees a 200-student rise from this time last year

By Icess Fernandez ifernandez@gannett.com

Southern University-Shreveport has the highest enrollment it has ever had in its 40-year history, officials say.

The school released its spring 2009 enrollment numbers, boasting a little more than a 200-student increase from this time last year.

That means there are 11,472 students in public colleges and universities in the area — a 5.1 percent increase from this time last year.

William Strother, director of the office of university communications at SUSLA, said the increase is due to the economic downturn. People are returning to school to get or update job skills.

"We also have programs that have employment opportunities," he said. "If you offer those types of programs, all that does is make us more attractive to students in northwest Louisiana."

The numbers support that though. The university saw a jump in the number of continuing education students from 1,472 this time last year to 1,530. The number of new students increased from 96 this time last year to 151 this year.

But schools in the area are in a conundrum. After Louisiana's higher education system took a $55 million cut, 4.5 percent during the midyear budget crunch, some schools had to take quick action.

At SUSLA, the cut was reduced by $403,397. Although no courses were cut and faculty kept their jobs, they had to take on an extra load of classes, Strother said. In an attempt to curb costs, the school froze 25 positions, including adjuncts.

With the 8.1 percent increase in students, including incoming freshman class and continuing education students, SUSLA is going through growing pains.

Parking at the main campus and the downtown campus is difficult. There are more students in classrooms and, of course, more on campus.

Rodney McFarland, president of the university's Student Government Association, attends classes at both campuses. He can tell that there has been an increase in the amount of students on both campuses.

"I can tell on certain days (there are more students)," he said. "It can get pretty jammed. In the classes it's increased. Last year, we had a limited amount of desks. Now the seating is arranged to get more students in class."

But the students are taking it in stride, McFarland said.

"It gives us a greater feel, gives more life on campus."

Strother said the school is looking into what it can do to relieve some of the growing pain problems like parking. The school acquired a lot across the street from the downtown campus to help. Although it make take time, faculty and staff know what is at stake.

"We've got the issue under review," he said.

Source: The Shreveport Times

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