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UPDATED: La Sierra University, Oakwood University and Southern Adventist University Buck Negative Enrollment Trend


Enrollment numbers for Adventist Institutes of higher learning in North America have dropped across the board, down 2.4% overall from last year’s numbers. In contrast to a general downward trend in enrollment this Fall, La Sierra University in Southern California, Oakwood University in Alabama and Southern Adventist University in Tennessee saw their enrollment numbers increase.

Each year the Adventist Enrollment Association compiles enrollment data from the 13 Association of Adventist Colleges and Universities (AACU) Institutions. The report includes information about the total number of students taking undergraduate courses, the total number of students taking graduate courses, and the total number of students all together for each institution.

According to a report from Jodi Wagner, the president of the Adventist Enrollment Association, AACU Institutions have seen a decline of 4.4% from students taking undergraduate courses when compared to number of students in the fall of 2013. However, the number of students taking graduate classes has increased by 2.9%.

Although AACU did not respond to requests for the official 2013 enrollment report, various enrollment reports posted by the respective institutes themselves provide some perspective on how this year’s numbers compare to enrollment numbers from the past few years.  

Andrews University has seen a decline in enrollment since their record-setting 2009-2010 census report. In 2009-2010, AU had 3,589 students enrolled, their highest undergraduate enrollment since 1984. This year they have reported 3,418 students a reduction of 171 students (4.7%) from four years ago.

A 2011 report in the Lacombe Globe, noted rapid growth for Canadian University College. The article stated that opening enrollment “increased dramatically in the last three years, from 336 in 2008-2009, to 407 in 2009-2010, 493 in 2010-2011 to about 514” in 2011. In 2014, CUC had only 479 enrolled, according to the Adventist Enrollment Association.

Kettering College has also seen a notable drop in numbers after a record-breaking year in 2012. They reported 981 students in the fall of 2012, the highest enrollment numbers they had seen since the school had opened. However, this year they have over 200 fewer students, with 761 enrolled.

In contrast, La Sierra University has seen growth for the fifth year in a row, reaching their highest enrollment numbers yet. Last year, LSU broke records with 2,478 students enrolled, and this year they grew again with numbers totaling 2,510.

Oakwood University has also seen a jump in enrollment. In the fall of 2013, Oakwood reported 1,903 students enrolled. This year they have reported 1,924 students.

In 2013, Pacific Union College reported their highest enrollment in 24 years with 1,678 students. This year, they have slightly less with 1,674 reported.

Southern Adventist University has seen a slight uptick in enrollment over their Fall 2012 Semester report. In 2012, 3,319 students enrolled. This year they have reported 3,335 students. 

Spectrum reported that Southwestern Adventist University had 804 students in 2011. This year, they have four fewer students, with 800 enrolled.*

Union College experienced a drop from last year’s 911 enrolled to this year’s 886. However, since 2010 they have seen an overall upward trend of full time equivalency from 2010’s 810.8 FTE’s to this year’s 832.9, according to an email message from Ryan Teller in the Office of Public Relations.

The North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists reported that Walla Walla University gained 6% in student enrollment from Fall 2011 to Fall 2012, with 1,940 enrolled. This year, WWU saw its enrollment dip to 1,887 students.

In the Fall of 2011 Spectrum reported that Washington Adventist University had 1,493 students enrolled, which was a significant growth from the 994 students they had in 2008-2009. This year, their numbers dropped to 1,057 students. However, the number of graduate students enrolled at WAU is at a record high, with 181 students enrolled. This is a 67% increase in graduate students over the past five years.

The complete report of Adventist Higher Ed enrollment numbers for Fall 2014 follows.

*UPDATE: After publishing this story, we had conversations with representatives from Southwestern Adventist University who wanted to clarify their numbers with last year’s statistics, which our story omitted. This is the statement we recieved:

“Our headcount was 807 in 2012, 807 in 2013, and is 800 in 2014.  What our board member, Ed Fry, is referring to (see comments section below) is our full time equivalency number which is 36 FFTE’s higher than last year. That means our net tuition revenue has significantly increased.  Additionally, our significant freshmen class increase was not previously reported by Spectrum. In 2013, PUC, Union and Southwestern were the only schools to increase their freshmen class size. In one year (2013), our freshmen class increased by 50 and was our largest freshmen class since 1999. The larger class size continues to hold in 2014 with a freshmen class of 164. Our retention rate is also up by 10% and holding, over previous years.”

Title Image: A record number of La Sierra University Students in the new Zapara School of Business.

Rachel Logan is a writing intern for Spectrum.

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