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Recruiting Non-Adventist Students Already the Norm in Adventist Higher Education


Last week I wrote about proposed solutions to the enrollment problem that faces institutions of higher education in the North American Division. Loma Linda University President Richard Hart stated in his April, 2017 newsletter “Being Distinctive or Being Inclusive?” that leaders in North American higher ed are increasingly looking outside the Adventist denomination to recruit students. Hart wrote, “Has the time come when we should openly invite students of other faiths to join our campuses as we look to share our message and strengthen our academic offerings?”

For many Adventist institutions outside North America, recruiting non-Adventist students is already the norm. Sahmyook University in metro Seoul, South Korea, provides the most obvious example: of Sahmyook’s 5,787 students enrolled in 2016, only 809 (14%) were members of the Adventist Church, according to data from the General Conference Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research. Over half of South Korea’s population claimed no religious affiliation in a 2015 census while 27.6% identified as Christians. Another 15.5% claimed Buddhism. Of South Korea’s estimated population of 50.8 million, there were 245,621 Seventh-day Adventists in 2015 (0.5% of the population).

South Korea’s demographics make looking outside the Adventist denomination for Sahmyook’s enrollment seem an obvious choice. Sahmyook is not alone either. The University of Arusha in Tanzania has 610 Adventist students out of 3,155 (19.3%).

Below is a breakdown of the data provided by the Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research (ASR) on Adventist enrollment percentages for the Adventist institutions of the Worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church, division-by-division. The number of institutions is given for each division along with the total enrollment.

East Central Africa Division (7 institutions with 14,209 students) – 39.5% Adventist enrollment
Euro-Asia Division (2 institutions with 918 students) – 88.5% Adventist enrollment
Inter-American Division (14 institutions with 19,196 students) – 74.3% Adventist enrollment
Inter-European Division (8 institutions with 768 students) – 87.2% Adventist enrollment
North American Division (13 institutions with 25,461 students) – 60.85% Adventist enrollment
Northern Asia-Pacific Division (5 institutions with 7,592 students) – 22.1% Adventist enrollment
South America Division (17 institutions with 28,285 students) – 66.2% Adventist enrollment
South Pacific Division (4 institutions with 3,357 students) – 70.7% Adventist enrollment
Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division (7 institutions with 4,940 students) 59.4% Adventist enrollment
Southern Asia Division (9 institutions with 3,760 students) – 36.2% Adventist enrollment
Southern Asia Pacific Division (19 institutions with 17,900 students) – 72.9% Adventist enrollment
Trans-European Division (5 institutions with 1,472 students) – 35% Adventist enrollment
West Central Africa Division (4 institutions with 19,062 students) – 17.4% Adventist enrollment

The total Adventist enrollment at Adventist institutions of higher education is 55% (80,847 students out of 147,123 enrolled).

Some Adventists would like to see much higher percentages of Adventist students at Adventist institutions, but in many parts of the world, including South Korea, Zimbabwe, and increasingly in North America, that is no longer feasible. That is why for Adventist higher education, as Hart reported, “the consensus seems to be emerging that [recruiting outside of Adventism] may be our best option, a time for uncovering our light and brightening the world.”

While Loma Linda University declined to share data on its students’ religious preferences, according to ASR statistics, in 2016 Loma Linda enrolled 1,960 out of 4,629 total (42%) Adventist students. Loma Linda is not the leader in low Adventist enrollment. Kettering College of Medical Arts in Ohio only enrolled 76 Adventist students out of 761 (10%), and the Adventist University of Health Sciences in Florida enrolled 425 out of 2,090 Adventist students (20%).

Here are the rest of the Adventist colleges and universities in North America ranked by percentage of Adventist students according to 2016 ASR data.

Washington Adventist University – 44% Adventist students
La Sierra University – 51.3% Adventist students
Pacific Union College – 68.5% Adventist students
Union College – 73% Adventist students
Southern Adventist University – 75% Adventist students
Walla Walla University – 77.7% Adventist students
Burman University – 83% Adventist students*
Andrews University (including Griggs U.) – 85% Adventist students
Oakwood University – 87.7% Adventist students
Southwestern Adventist University – 90% Adventist students

The data make clear that some Adventist colleges and universities in North America have already moved away from being centers of learning primarily for Seventh-day Adventist students. They are led by the health sciences institutions, Kettering, Loma Linda, and Adventist University of Health Sciences.

With global Adventist student enrollment in Adventist colleges and universities at 55% and shrinking, religious inclusivity is increasingly the norm.


*This story originally listed Burman University's Adventist student population as 50.1% of its total enrollment based on statistics courtesy of ASR. Burman University said the number was 83%.
Image courtesy Sahmyook University.


Jared Wright is Southern California Correspondent for

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