Enrollments mostly down; Bethel bounces back

Undergraduate students only part of the picture

Oct 12, 2015 by and

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Bethel College in North Newton, Kan., is the brightest spot among U.S. Mennonite college and seminary enrollments, with six of the eight institutions showing declines.

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 6.05.35 PMEnrollment at Bethel has returned to levels not seen in four years after steady numbers in the upper 400s. The college reports a nearly 9 percent increase to 525 students.

Nearly all of the growth comes in full-time undergraduate students, which added 40 to 508. First-time freshmen number 130 and transfers 76.

At Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., enrollment is up 2 percent to 1,908 and the incoming traditional undergraduate first-year class, numbering 257 students, is the largest in several decades. From 2001 to 2010, EMU averaged 205 first-year students.

While overall enrollment grew, the number of full-time undergraduate students decreased from 1,124 to 1,087.

Eastern Mennonite Seminary has the same number of students — 133 — as last year, but full-time students declined from 50 to 36.

“Since graduating a near-record 2015 class, we’ve recognized that we would face several challenging years in rebuilding our full-time student numbers,” said Michael A. King, vice president and dean of the seminary. “We’re pleased that a strong recruitment season allowed us to maintain the same headcount across autumn 2014 and 2015. And fewer students departing in 2016 gives us a promising foundation for future enrollment increases.”

Non-seminary graduate course enrollment grew about 26 percent, from 356 to 450. Nearly all of that came from increases in part-time enrollment, chiefly the Harrisonburg-based master’s in education program.

Total students at Goshen (Ind.) College held nearly steady at 839. The slight decline of three students continues six straight years of dropping enrollment. The college has lost 17.5 percent of total enrollment since reporting 1,017 students in 2009.

Goshen’s 714 full-time undergraduates, however, are 12 higher than last year, somewhat reversing a decline in full-time undergraduates from 814 in 2011.

New, traditional undergraduate students number 225, including first-year, transfer, readmitted and students returning for a second undergraduate degree. Goshen reports new students increased 21 percent over last year.

Overall enrollment at Tabor College in Hillsboro and Wichita, Kan., dropped by 37 students, returning close to 2013 levels. Meanwhile, graduate students grew 35 percent to a record 42 — nearly quadrupling the number enrolled two years ago — thanks in part to expanded online programs.

Undergraduate enrollment includes 561 students in Hillsboro and 126 at the Wichita campus. Hillsboro had 594 total students last year.

Fresno (Calif.) Pacific University enrollment dropped by 150 to 3,586 after the departure of a large graduating class in the spring. Total traditional undergraduate enrollment is down 10 percent to 1,099. Bachelor’s degree completion, which serves older students, is down 4 percent to 1,263.

Decreases were slightly mitigated by record enrollment in graduate programs, which climbed from 1,180 to 1,224. The biggest increase came in the FPU School of Education, which has 310 students enrolled in initial education credential study, compared to 222 last year. Enrollment management vice president Jon Endicott attributed the jump to a teacher shortage in the region.

Enrollment at Bluffton (Ohio) University is down nearly 8 percent, dropping by 83 students to 1,011. The university has experienced declines each year since 1,229 were enrolled four years ago.

Full-time undergraduates are down by 50, to 746, from a recent high of 838 in 2013.

At Hesston (Kan.) College, enrollment totals 409 students, 4.4 percent less than last year. However, retention is up from last year — 10 percent more than anticipated — and full-time students are only four less than a year ago.

Students come from 31 states — nearly half are from Kansas — and 11 percent are international students.

Total enrollment at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Ind., is down 11 to 102 students, about what it was in 2012 and 2013. Full-time equivalency dipped slightly, from 55.1 to 53. The incoming class, numbering 33 new students, is the largest in six years.

Students represent 19 denominations, with three-fourths coming from Mennonite and Anabaptist groups.

In addition to traditional seminary programming, AMBS also provides lifelong learning programs that include undergraduate study, professional development, short courses and web­inars. Though enrollment is in flux throughout the year, in 2014-15 these programs engaged 661 participants from around the world.

“Our mission is expanding, and we are redefining what a student is,” said AMBS President Sara Wenger Shenk.


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