By Erik Koike
Enrolling in college after completing high school is a choice for many high school graduates, but keeping college students enrolled until they reach graduation is a challenge that many universities face.
Nicholls State University has created several iniatives aimed at keeping students, especially those most at risk for leaving, once they’ve enrolled.
One program that aims to keep a group of students on campus is the Colonel Retention of Winners Network, or “CROWN.” CROWN focuses on the retention of first-year black male students through a system that pairs freshmen with experienced mentors. CROWN coordinator Farren Clark says the overall focus of the program is on academic success, as well as cultural exposure and awareness.
“The challenge is that many first-year students don’t understand what it takes to be successful,” Clark says. “To know that there are others who are willing to connect with you and who have the same questions is so important for these students to understand.”
CROWN was established in the spring 2018 semester, and prior to the start of the program, retention for black male freshmen was below 50 percent.
According to Rene Hicks from the Nicholls’ Office of Institutional Research, those retention rates grew to just below 60 percent by the end of the programs first year. Hicks also added that the most recent data shows rates for this group now at 70 percent, which is the highest the school has ever seen.
Clark says that part of CROWN’s success is simply giving these students a representation around campus which they may not have found otherwise.
“When you look at the makeup of faculty at Nicholls, there is a large contrast, so having a peer mentor creates a level of teamwork and a shared goal of success. For these young men in CROWN, they are being reintroduced to themselves to work out the purpose they already carry within them.”
Another program to improve retention rates at Nicholls is “SAM,” which stands for Student Advising and Mentoring. The program began in 2015 with the goal of improving the advising process of sophomore level students and above, since Nicholls already had a freshman advising center in the works.
The director of SAM, Amy Adams says she intends for the program to better train and educate the advisors and faculty, while also helping students learn about internships, undergraduate research, service learning and more.
“We want them to understand more about their degree program and the path that they’re taking, anything we can do to help them get to their career goal,” Adams says.
Adams also hopes that SAM will continue to build off what CROWN has started.
“We want to create CROWN for females, as well as mentoring programs for all first-time freshman within their specific programs no matter their race.”
With various programs and organizations already existing and more planned for the future, Nicholls is setting up for continued success.
With increasing enrollment and retention rates, the school looks to expand with various renovation projects and a larger population of Colonels for the foreseeable future.