Should the UN start a football program? Student reviews are mixed | Education

After struggling for nearly two decades with declining enrollment, the University of New Orleans student body is less than half of what it was at its peak in 2004, when about 17,000 students attended. the lakeside campus.

UN President John Nicklow, who was hired in 2016 in part to rekindle interest in the school, has tried various tactics to attract more students. In its early years it was largely successful, until the pandemic slowed progress.

Now, with enrollment dropping again, Nicklow and other university officials believe a football team – a sport the UN has never played at university level in its more than six decades of existence – could reverse the trend.

Whether the UNO adds soccer, along with women’s soccer, women’s golf, and a marching band, depends on what the students decide. UNO students will vote Nov. 7-8 on whether to award themselves an additional $300 to $400 per semester in tuition to cover the costs of new sports.

The UNO currently field men’s baseball, basketball, tennis, golf, cross country, and track and field teams. Women’s sports include basketball, volleyball, beach volleyball, tennis, cross country, and track and field.

Nicklow, a former Bucknell University football player, said students and alumni often ask him about the possibility of a private football team.

“If the students want this, the students agree to pay, we will have it,” he said. “I have my own personal opinions and affection for football, but I take that out of the equation… it’s about the student voice.”

If approved, the additional fees would bring in about $3.6 million a year, according to the university. The balance of the $6 million cost to add sports would come from ticket sales, concessions, sponsorships and donations to the sports department, said UN spokesman Adam Norris.

Mixed student reviews

On a recent afternoon on campus, students walked past the Earl K. Long Library. On the ground nearby, a flyer fluttered in the wind. It said, “KEEP UNO AFFORDABLE! UNO DOESN’T NEED A FOOTBALL TEAM!!!” under a photo of a burning $100 bill.

At the University Center, undergraduates gathered next to a sign advertising a Dungeons and Dragons campus group. Gabriele Sudmann, 18, said she was drawn to the UN partly because she doesn’t have a football team and is wary of the changes football would bring.

“There is no football team – I liked that,” Sudmann said.

Sophomore Taylor Villareal was more blunt: “I don’t think enough people are going to care.”

Other students said they thought football would attract more students and create a stronger college community. Elias Ramirez, 19, who left Mexico for the UN’s naval architecture and marine engineering program, said football would bring a much-needed buzz to the campus, which is usually quiet and empty on weekends -end.

“Give me football on Saturday and I’ll be out on Saturday,” he said.

Sitting at a table outside the library with her sorority sisters, second Jenna Hymel, 19, said she thought football could be a glue for the campus community.

“We get women’s sports, we get a marching band, and we get a lot of school recognition,” she said. “It will definitely help retain a lot of students, grow the student population, grow the community.”

But other students have raised concerns about additional fees. Aibel Evans, 20, who transferred from Loyola University because of lower tuition at the UN, plans to vote “No” primarily because of the cost.

“Even still, going here, sometimes it’s hard to make ends meet,” Evans said.

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UN President John Nicklow.

According to Nicklow, approximately 80% of UN students receive some form of financial aid or scholarship. The increased fees would be covered by financial assistance for those who qualify, he said.

Impact on schooling

Enrollment at the UN peaked at over 17,000 students in 2003. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was a huge setback, and by the fall of that year only 6,700 students were enrolled. But the following year, that number nearly doubled, and the university, like others in the city, experienced slow enrollment growth until 2011, when the state made admissions requirements stricter and that fewer students could be accepted, Nicklow said.

After Nicklow took over, there were three years of steady growth from 2018 to 2020 when registrations hit nearly 8,400, but then came the pandemic and Hurricane Ida, both of which “cut the wind from our sails,” he said. This year, enrollment is 7,112 students, down 11% from 7,953 in 2021.

A feasibility study commissioned by the UNO Foundation calculates that each student added directly to the football program – football players, band members – would indirectly bring two more. According to the study, six schools that serve urban populations similar to the UN, including the state of Georgia, saw a 37.8% increase in enrollment over 10 years after the addition of football.

Nicklow said he thinks football will help attract more students straight from high school, a group less prevalent at the UN than at many schools.

“Adding football, I think, would probably bring more traditional-aged students into college,” Nicklow said. “We are not losing this diversity. We will always have the graduate student, we will always have the 45-year-old single mother who wants to further her education, we will always have the student who commutes and lives at home. But I think it complements and expands our population in a really positive way.

Not the first attempt to raise fees

UNO students have already faced the choice of charging themselves extra fees for athletics. In 2009, amid post-Katrina financial difficulties that included a $1 million decrease in the state’s UN operating budget, students narrowly voted against increasing their fees to $196 per year. semester.

The rejection almost led the university to move its athletic program to Division III, which does not award athletic scholarships, to save money. The move never happened and the Athletics remained in Division I.

Currently, the UN provides $3.3 million from the general fund, or about 3.4% of the school’s overall budget, to the athletic department. Athletics generates approximately $1.2 million a year through ticket sales, concessions, licensing and the like, and an additional $875,000 in lecture donations, sponsorships and distributions, according to Norris, the university spokesperson. Current athletics fees generate $1.3 million.

Students currently pay between $31.94 and $100 in fees, depending on the number of class hours they take. Under the proposed fees, part-time students would pay $300 and full-time students would pay $400.

According to the bill proposed by the Student Government Association last April, 90% of the revenue from the fee increase would go to athletics, 6% to the band, 1% to student activities, 1% to retention programs, 1% to intramurals and club programs and 1% to student diversity programs.

The UN Faculty Senate has not taken an official position on the initiative, said Faculty Senate President Chris Broadhurst.

Although the vote has not yet taken place, Nicklow said he has received verbal commitments to play from schools across the country and talks are underway with investors for a campus stadium. potential. Nevertheless, he emphasized that the students will have the final say.

“It’s not being forced on them, it’s their decision,” he said.

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