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NOBTS enrollment numbers: 2,500 continue coursework

ATLANTA (BP)–New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary received a bit of good news when the registrar’s office conducted an initial enrollment tally. The overwhelming majority of students from the seminary’s main campus have remained in school following Hurricane Katrina.

In the immediate aftermath of the devastating storm, NOBTS acted quickly to meet primary relief needs of students and their families. Seminary officials also put a great deal of effort into redesigning courses so students, who were scattered across the United States, could continue their fall semester.

After their initial displacement needs were met, many students were able to refocus on their classes –- and seminary officials were surprised to learn just how many were continuing their coursework.

The seminary’s preliminary fall enrollment of about 2,500 students is only about 250 students below last year’s record fall enrollment. Approximately 250 students withdrew from NOBTS after the hurricane, many of whom are sitting out a semester or two while rebuilding their personal lives.

Only 44 students transferred to other institutions. Many of the students who withdrew, and even some attending other schools, have expressed interest in returning to NOBTS when the campus reopens.

Perhaps the most exciting news for seminary administrators is the number of new student applications NOBTS has received since Sept. 9. The registrar’s office has received 238 new student applications since Labor Day. While the number is lower than usual for the same time period, the continued interest in NOBTS is encouraging.

NOBTS Provost Steve Lemke noted, “Fortunately, through our extension centers and Internet-assisted classes, most of our students have been able to continue their studies without interruption and keep on track toward graduation.”

Lemke credited the faculty with much of the student retention. He said the personal relationship NOBTS professors build with their students is the only way to account for student loyalty at the seminary.

“Almost every member of our faculty has extensive experience in ministry, and this tragedy has brought out their best in encouraging our students who were hurting,” Lemke said. “Our faculty is personable and compassionate, and they really connect with our students. At the same time, few theological faculties have the technological expertise to redesign this number of courses into an Internet-assisted format in the midst of a semester. This really is a testimony to how excellent a faculty we have.”

Lemke said the student contacts made by the dean of students office following the storm also played a key role in student retention. Craig Price, dean of students at NOBTS, and his staff contacted 983 of the 1081 main-campus students.

Along with the contacts, the dean of students office served as a clearing house for student assistance. The office directed financial assistance to student families in the wake of Katrina and helped families find local temporary housing throughout the United States.

According to Price’s office, students fled to 29 states following the storm, from California to New York and New Jersey, and from Oregon to Florida. Most of the students stayed in the Southeast. The largest number of students in any state, 289 to be exact, remained in Louisiana. Other key displacement states were Mississippi, 175; Georgia, 124; Alabama, 94; Florida, 77; and Texas, 67.