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Adventist College and University Enrollment Generally Up

Adventist higher education in the United States experienced solid enrollment gains in Fall 2011. Despite the closure of Atlantic Union College, overall undergraduate enrollment at the nine remaining schools—Andrews University, La Sierra University, Oakwood University, Pacific Union College, Southern Adventist University, Southwestern Adventist University, Union College, Walla Walla University and Washington Adventist University—held steady, with some seeing a significant surge in their enrollment.

Due in part to its brief formal relationship with AUC’s roughly 450 students, Washington Adventist University experienced the most growth. The Takoma Park, Maryland, campus experienced 13% jump in undergraduate enrollment this year with an increase of 154 students. More impressively, following its restructuring in 2008 by its President, Weymouth Spence, WAU’s total enrollment has grown from 994 students at the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year to 1,493 now.

As previously reported by Spectrum, La Sierra University experienced its third consecutive year of growth this year. This fall, LSU had 1,897 undergraduate students enrolled marking another year of record enrollment for the university and continuing its steady pattern of growth. The Riverside, California, school added 142 undergraduates for an 8% surge in undergraduate population—good for second largest percentage growth in the North American Adventist system. LSU’s total enrollment also increased to 2,199 year on year.

Adventism’s liberal arts-focused school in the Napa Valley, Pacific Union College saw its enrollment increase for the third year straight. PUC’s on-campus undergraduate enrollment climbed 5% from 1,436 in fall 2010 to 1,511 putting it a year ahead on its enrollment goals according to its President, Heather Knight. In a statement to Spectrum, Vice President for Marketing and Enrollment Julie Z. Lee said the surge could be attributed to students seeing the value of a “small, highly-ranked residential college that is working to increase scholarships and elevate customer service.”

Southwestern Adventist University has 804 undergraduate students this year, up 4% from last fall’s count of 773 at its campus in Keene, Texas. Meanwhile in College Place, Washington, Walla Walla University saw its undergraduate enrollment increase from 1451 to 1502, representing a 3.5% increase from WWU’s enrollment last year.

In Collegedale, Tennessee, Southern Adventist University’s enrollment increased by 3%. In an emailed statement to Spectrum, Marc Grundy, Southern’s Vice President for Enrollment, wrote that God had blessed in an “abundant way” and that the school’s “mission and values” had attracted “motivated students” from all over the world. He stated that while Southern looks at “possibilities of future growth” the school will “continue to keep Christ as its focus.”

Andrews University, the only Adventist institution classified as a National University by the Carnegie Foundation, saw its undergraduate enrollment stay essentially the same. It lost two students for a statistically insignificant change from 1931 at the beginning of last school year to 1929 at the start of this school year.

Two schools were not as fortunate. Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama and Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska. Both encountered significant declines in undergraduate enrollments. Oakwood University’s undergraduate population decreased from 1867 to 1810 for a 3% decrease from Fall 2010. Union College saw its enrollment decrease by 2% to 810 students from 829 last fall.

Combined enrollment in the nine schools included in this report at the beginning 2011-2012 school year was at 14,406 undergraduates. Last year, undergraduate enrollment at the same nine schools was at 13,947 students not including the roughly 450 at Atlantic Union College, meaning that the total roughly held steady year on year. The average school in this report saw a fall 2011 undergraduate enrollment of 1,601 students, or an increase of just over 3% from fall 2010’s average enrollment of 1,550 undergraduates.

Due to time limitations, Adventist institutions outside the United States, and health-care focused schools in the U.S. were not included in this report.

Giovanni Hashimoto is a freshman honors student at Pacific Union College taking majors in journalism and American history.

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