Mennonite Brethren colleges set enrollment records

Results are mixed at MC USA institutions

Oct 7, 2017 by and

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The two U.S. Mennonite Breth­ren colleges set enrollment records this fall, while their Mennonite Church USA counterparts reported mixed results. Three achieved increases of 9 or 10 percent, while two had 13 percent declines.

Fresno (Calif.) Pacific University counts 4,029 students across five campuses in traditional undergraduate and graduate programs. The addition of 509 students from a year ago is the biggest one-year jump in more than 20 years.

2017 enrollment

Enrollment is up in degree completion, graduate programs and at the seminary, and down slightly among traditional undergraduates. Bachelor’s degree completion saw the biggest increase, growing from 1,281 students in 2016 to 1,678 today.  Traditional undergraduates decreased by 29 to 1,053 students.

“Given the different needs of the groups of students we serve and the many kinds of programs we offer, it would be extremely rare that we would see growth in all areas at once,” said vice president for enrollment management Jon Endicott, in a news release.

Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary, which is included in FPU’s graduate program totals, grew by 22 students to 170, continuing to build on the addition of 11 students a year earlier.

Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kan., set an enrollment record with 770 students, slightly more than in 2014 and 2012.

Tabor has an increased number of students on its main Hillsboro campus and more local high school students taking dual-credit courses. In addition to those dual-credit students and positive student retention, Tabor pointed to new campus opportunities and growth. Construction of a fine arts center is scheduled for completion in December.

Goshen (Ind.) College grew  by more than 9 percent to 950 total students. The college has added more than 100 students in the last few years, rebounding from a low of 839 students in 2015 to a level not seen in five years.

“We have worked tirelessly to cultivate new relationships and find ways to bring new students into the Goshen College family,” said Goshen dean of admissions Adela Hufford in a joint release from all institutions affiliated with MC USA. “Seeing continued enrollment growth, especially in today’s higher ed environment, is a testament that we’re doing things right.”

Hesston (Kan.) College made a big leap since last year, growing to 442 students, 207 of which are new. It’s the most students Hesston has had since 2013.

“With the addition of new [athletic and academic] programs, strong retention and a solid new student group, we are excited to see a total enrollment increase of 10 percent from last fall,” said Rachel Swartzendruber Miller, vice president of admissions and financial aid.

Bethel College in North Newton, Kan., bounced back somewhat, rebounding nearly 10 percent from 460 students last year to 503. Bethel had 525 students in 2015.

New undergraduates account for 220 of this year’s students. The RN-to-BSN degree-completion program has 34 students.

“With increases in our traditional population as well as our RN-to-BSN program, we enrolled our largest incoming class in recent memory,” said vice president for admissions Andy Johnson. “With the foundation laid in areas across campus, we continue to project positive enrollment growth for 2018 as well.”

Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Ind., grew slightly, up four students from last year to 103.

Bluffton (Ohio) University enrollment declined again, dropping by 128 to 824 total students. The 13.4 percent loss follows several consecutive years of decline. Bluffton counted nearly 1,200 students in 2012.

“We are pleased to see a higher number of first-time freshmen enrolling at Bluffton this year,” said director of admissions Erin Burkholder. “. . . Policy changes at the state level regarding dual enrollment and post-secondary programs in Ohio caused Bluff­ton to significantly reduce offerings to high school students. As a result, we have experienced a decline in our total student enrollment.”

A similar 13 percent decline occurred at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va. Total enrollment of 1,633 students is lower than 2015’s recent high of 1,908 and similar to enrollment five years ago.

EMU hopes an increase in student retention this year contributes to larger enrollment in the future. Undergraduate accounts for 884 students, with 749 enrolled in graduate, degree- completion and non-credit programs, and Eastern Mennonite Seminary. The seminary’s enrollment of 111 is up seven students from last year.


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