ActivePaper Archive Former students are going back to school - American Press, 10/30/2020


Former students are going back to school

The 650,000 Louisianans who earned some college credit but left school for various reasons are getting a chance to complete their education. The program is called Compete Louisiana, which was initiated by the University of Louisiana System.

The Advocate reported that 2,600 students filled out the Compete LA form to find out more about the program that was launched last year. Of those who filled out the form, 950 were referred to one of the UL system’s nine regional campuses, and McNeese State University is one of the nine.

Of those 950, 750 applied for admission last year, 640 students were admitted and 412 enrolled. This semester, even with COVID-19, the coronavirus pandemic disease, and two hurricanes, 375 students enrolled for the fall 2020 semester. Eight Compete LA students have graduated from UL system schools.

The system hopes to have 5,000 students enrolled in the program by 2023, its fifth year. McNeese has 49 students enrolled this semester. To get prospective students back to campus, the system hired coaches, knowledgeable people who advise prospective students on how to handle obstacles and return to campus for their degrees.

Amber Beridon, a Comeaux High School graduate, attended the University of Louisiana at Lafayette but left school to help support her mother and grandmother. Going back to school was a financial problem, but her coach worked out a plan for her and she returned to ULL last spring.

Beridon said she wants to “be the sponge that soaks up learning. That’s been the dream for me since I enrolled. I’ve put the dream on the front burner.”

Jim Henderson, UL system president and CEO, said money is often a barrier for students who want to return to college. To offset that problem, Henderson said the system charges $275 per credit hour with no hidden fees, and he calls that a competitive payment rate.

There is little money for advertising and promoting Compete LA, but Henderson said the media has noticed the program and students hear about it mainly by word of mouth. He said he is pleased with the program’s progress and with its operation, but the system must convey Compete LA’s strength and get the word out in a compelling Louisiana message.

The overriding goal, Henderson said, is for students to gain the credentials they need in the emerging workforce. More college graduates make Louisiana a more competitive state.

Compete LA couldn’t have come at a better time. Louisiana needs this good news story in a year in which it has had to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and two devastating hurricanes.

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Crystal Stevenson, John Guidroz, Mike Jones and Jim Beam.