300 unique New Orleans moments: University of New Orleans opens in fall 1957 | Tricentennial

On December 6, 2011, the University of New Orleans officially became part of the University of Louisiana system.

Founded on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain in an abandoned U.S. Navy air station, the University of New Orleans has grown to become an important part of the city’s educational fabric. The university was created by the state legislature in 1956 after citizens pushed for public higher education in the city. After the Navy abandoned its lakefront station, a quick renovation turned the site into Louisiana State University of New Orleans with an initial enrollment of 1,460 in 1958.

By 1961, the school was a four-year institution with an enrollment of 3,000 and in 1962, the school graduated its first class of 116.

The school continued to grow exponentially. By 1969, enrollment had exceeded 10,000, making LSUNO the second largest university in Louisiana. In 1974, the school was renamed the University of New Orleans, and by the fall of 1983, the school had 16,000 students enrolled.

UNO has colleges of liberal arts, sciences, education, business administration and engineering. It also had schools of urban and regional studies, naval architecture and hotel, restaurant and tourism administration.

The school has also become known for its research and graduate studies. With a current enrollment of about 8,500, a quarter of UNO’s students are in graduate studies.

In 2011, the university left the LSU system and became part of the University of Louisiana System.

Though a handful of African-American students attended that first year at LSUNO, the state legislature created a separate school for African-Americans at Pontchartrain Park, the Southern University at New Orleans in 1959. Attempts to merge the campuses have been resisted by both UNO and SUNO students and officials.