As the newest college president in New Orleans, I was intrigued by the Oct. 11 article, “Fewer students are enrolling in New Orleans area colleges and universities.” I understand the real enrollment challenges expressed by my higher education colleagues, but I am optimistic. Regardless of these challenges, New Orleans remains one of the most attractive U.S. destinations for college students.
Since moving to New Orleans in July, I have experienced a collaborative leadership environment. For instance, Greater New Orleans Inc.’s Study NOLA initiative exposes the world to diverse, intellectual and cultural experiences at our institutions. Also, the Business Council and GNO Inc. include us as business partners on their boards. Recently, a significant investment was made in this collaborative environment with a $50 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to evolve Louisiana with renewable energy, career development and innovation.
I am optimistic because of enrollment wins at SUNO, Delgado and Dillard. At Dillard, we had a total student enrollment increase of nearly 2% and new student enrollment increase of 6%. With the introduction of intercollegiate baseball, we saw an increase in male students; our tennis teams showcase global diversity from Europe, South America, Africa and Asia.
While crime, hurricanes and higher education’s enrollment cliff threaten us, we are facing these issues together. Our higher education community will make New Orleans even better, because my fellow presidents and I stand side-by-side committed to addressing issues together with our local, state and federal officials.
Let’s continue to innovate together, seek opportunities and creatively engage future leaders who are eager to build a better Louisiana.
I’m excited to lead the Dillard community in working and collaborating to create opportunities and to build a legacy like those higher education and community leaders who came before me.
ROCHELLE L. FORD
president, Dillard University