UL System to empower adults to finish college education


Brynn Lundy/The Lion's Roar

Adults with some college credit but no degree, have been out of college for at least two years and reside in Louisiana can use Compete LA to enroll in courses at a discounted tuition rate and to find the quickest path to graduation.

The university is participating in a program created to assist Louisiana adults with returning to college and completing their bachelor’s degrees.

Compete LA is powered by the University of Louisiana System and was originally launched in 2019. This year, the initiative announced the introduction of Compete LA Academy, a 100% online option of the college re-entry program.

Kay Maurin, chief enrollment management officer, stated that there are currently 14 students using Compete LA to complete their degree at the university. She described the qualifications required to utilize this program.

“A student must be a Louisiana resident, have earned some college credit but not enough to earn a bachelor’s degree and have been out of college for at least two years to be eligible for this program,” explained Maurin.

In order to be eligible for Compete LA Academy, students must be enrolled in the Compete LA program.

Compete LA allows students to pay a flat-rate tuition of $275 per credit hour. The Academy offers a tuition of $150 per month through a partnership with StraighterLine, a company that allows for self-paced courses.

“StraighterLine allows students to pay by course and start and complete the course at their own pace,” said Maurin. “This is appealing for students who are interested in starting immediately but may have missed a semester registration entry point. It’s also of interest to students who have not completed specific general education requirements.”

As long as the prospective student is a current resident of Louisiana and fits the other criteria for enrolling in the program, it does not matter what university the student attended previously nor his or her exact previous degree plan.

“The student is not required to continue in the same degree plan as before,” said Maurin. “Advisors work with the student to find the quickest degree path to graduation.”

Every student who enrolls in the program will be matched with a Compete LA Coach who will work with that student from the time of enrollment until graduation.

“Once the student is enrolled, coaches continue to provide enhanced support when a student needs additional academic and other student support services based on their individual needs and situations,” said Melissa Stafford, a Compete LA Coach.

James Henderson, president and CEO of the UL System, commented on the goals the System had in mind when introducing the Academy for those looking to re-enroll in college during these times.

“At a time when Louisianians are facing economic hardship and uncertainty about the future, our nine member institutions are playing a powerful role in helping develop the skills and credentials that employers will be looking for as the economy rebounds,” said Henderson, according to a Compete LA press release.

Thomas Ortiz graduated from the university this May with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences. He utilized Compete LA to finish his academic journey.

“Back in 1996 and ‘97, I went to school at Southeastern, and I took up biology,” shared Ortiz. “I finished mostly everything except for 16 hours, then work took me in another direction. So, all I had was 16 hours of school, and my GPA when I left was 3.4.”

After months of paperwork regarding course catalogues and financial aid, Ortiz re-enrolled at the university for the Spring 2020 semester with the help of his Compete LA Coach, Claire Norris.

“I want this story to come out there,” said Ortiz. “Maybe somebody’s going to school there, and maybe their mother or father or something is like, ‘I wish I could go back to school.’ Well, I did it. I just want to encourage anybody else that wants to. Southeastern is awesome as well.”

Southeastern offers family and consumer sciences, criminal justice and general studies degree programs through Compete LA. Students interested in enrolling can read more about Compete LA Academy and the program at academy.competela.org.