U.S. college, seminary enrollment mostly down

Oct 8, 2018 by and

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Bright spots are few as U.S. Mennonite higher education institutions report shrinking enrollment numbers this fall.

Goshen College students walk through an applause tunnel after opening convocation Aug. 29. — Brian Yoder Schlabach/Goshen College

Goshen College students walk through an applause tunnel after opening convocation Aug. 29. — Brian Yoder Schlabach/Goshen College

Though overall student totals are up at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elk­hart, Ind., and Fresno (Calif.) Pacific University, traditional core student populations are down.

FPU reported an increase of nearly 200 students to 4,212 across all of its campuses, but full-time undergraduate students decreased by 40 to 943. The decrease was attributed to graduation of a larger than usual class in the spring.

“The recruitment goals for traditional undergraduates, bachelor’s degree completion and graduate students have each been exceeded,” said President Joseph Jones.

The biggest change from 2017-18 was in bachelor’s degree completion programs, which grew from 1,578 to 1,808 students. Degree completion has added about 500 new students in two years.

The number of students seeking master’s degrees and credentials increased by almost 100 to 1,386. This includes enrollment at Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary, which stayed even at 170.

At AMBS, seminary and graduate enrollment dipped from 103 to 98 students. However, that difference was offset by an increase in the Journey Missional Leadership Development Program — a two-and-a-half-year undergraduate-level non-degree program in the seminary’s Church Leadership Center. Overall enrollment rose from 109 to 115.

Seminary students include 27 students from outside the U.S.

“We’re also enjoying increased vibrancy on campus as our housing is completely full, with students from every inhabited continent living on campus,” said Daniel Grimes, director of enrollment and financial aid, in a joint release from Mennonite Church USA institutions.

Total enrollment decreased from 1,633 to 1,550 students at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va. EMU is the only MC USA college to bring in a larger class this fall than one year ago, growing by 4.2 percent to 197. Full-time undergraduates increased from 942 to 953 students.

Lower numbers in adult degree completion programs at Goshen (Ind.) College contributed to an overall enrollment decrease to 927 students from 950. Total undergraduate enrollment increased from 750 to 762 students, but full-time undergraduates are down significantly, from 816 last year to 736.

At Bethel College in North Newton, Kan., total enrollment dropped from 503 to 444 students this fall, a decrease of almost 12 percent. New undergraduates number 152.

“We look forward to the possibility of rebounding with a strong enrollment class in the coming year as Bethel benefits from the stability and leadership of President Gering,” said Andy Johnson, vice president for admissions.

Bluffton (Ohio) University total enrollment dropped by more than 6 percent to 770 from 824 students last year. Bluffton counted nearly 1,200 students in 2012.

“Our first-year cohort is smaller than we had hoped, but the class is very strong and includes one of our largest groups of international students in recent years,” said Robin Bowlus, interim vice president of enrollment management.

Total undergraduate student enrollment is 655. An additional 115 students are enrolled in degree completion and graduate programs.

Hesston (Kan.) College’s enrollment grew by 10 percent a year ago but this fall dropped to 420, which is also its five-year average. Vice president of enrollment Rachel Swartzendruber Miller said aviation degree students grew from eight to 18 since last fall.

“We will continue to watch trends across all industries and try to respond appropriately with our programs of study,” she said.

After reporting a record enrollment of 770 students one year ago, total students at Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kan., decreased by 9 percent to 701.

There are 46 graduate students. High school students taking one or more classes for college credit number 55.

A cooperative master of business administration program recorded its highest enrollment to date. The Collaborative MBA — a joint program of Bluffton, EMU, Goshen and Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Man. — has 17 students starting the two-year program his fall.

“The program is attracting adult students from within and beyond the Mennonite church,” said director George Lehman. “The program is exceeding our goals.”


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