Pandemic’s enrollment impact lingers

Students at Bluffton University, where first-year enrollment is slightly down after three years of increases. — Bluffton University Students at Bluffton University, where first-year enrollment is slightly down after three years of increases. — Bluffton University

The higher education institutions affiliated with Mennonite Church USA, Mennonite Church Canada and the Mennonite Brethren denominations in the U.S. and Canada have released fall enrollment statistics revealing many of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts are still reverberating.

Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary enrollment grew from 145 students last year to 157 this fall, driven by students from outside the U.S. and Canada. International graduate students rose by 20 to 74, setting a record, and now make up a majority (52%) of the student body. Students represent 14 countries in Africa, Asia, North America and South America, with most from Ethiopia and South Korea in partnerships with institutions in those countries. Enrollment in distance-friendly programs continues to grow, representing 65% of students. The fully online master of arts: theology and global Anabaptism program has 40 students.

The graduate student body of 141 — 77 men and 64 women — is the largest in 12 years. Part-time students continue to become a bigger portion of participants, with only 17% of students studying full time. Of the 141 graduate students, 109 are affiliated with Mennonite World Conference or related Anabaptist groups.

Bethel College enrollment rose from 484 students last year to 495 as retention continues to grow. Total student retention was 82.7%, the highest since 2007-08, when Bethel began keeping such records. First-time freshmen retention from 2021 to 2022 was 75.5%

Eastern Mennonite University total enrollment increased by 20 to 1,456 students, although undergraduate numbers remained relatively flat with 201 full-time first-year students.

“We’re observing the effects of some nationwide trends here at EMU, including an increase in students who enter with enough credits to graduate in three years, as well as some students deciding to pause or not enroll for various reasons, some of which are reverberating effects of the pandemic,” said Mary Jensen, vice president for enrollment and strategic growth.

Growth took place in graduate, Eastern Mennonite Seminary and Intensive English Program areas. Graduate and seminary enrollment is up 14%, with increases in education, biomedicine, counseling, nursing and trauma and resilience in health care settings.

Overall enrollment at Bluffton University is holding steady as adult and graduate program gains offset a first-year student decrease. After three years of increases, the number of first-year, full-time students is slightly down. The full-time equivalent total, including undergraduate and graduate programs, is 730.

Full-time graduate students are up 44% from last year, with the largest number of grad students in the last three years completing dietetic internship, business or education classes.

Recruiting for the next class is “trending with or ahead of the 2021 class, which was the strongest class Bluffton has seen in six years,” said Robin Bowlus, vice president of advancement and enrollment management.

Conrad Grebel University College trends are mixed, as students living on campus increased.

For the first time since before the pandemic, Grebel’s residence is completely occupied, with 172 students living in campus facilities, up from 154 last year. With more than 70 other students connecting to Grebel as associates, almost 250 students consider Grebel their home base at the University of Waterloo.

Graduate students have decreased, likely due to difficulty acquiring visas, pandemic fatigue and a strong labor market. The master’s degree in peace and conflict studies counts 37 students, down from 50 last year. Master of theological studies students are down from 37 to 30 students. Collaboration with Canadian Mennonite University is on the rise, with three students taking a Grebel course this semester, followed by a CMU professor teaching a course including Grebel students next term.

Canadian Mennonite University continues to be inhibited by the pandemic. Retention has increased over the past three years as incoming class sizes have dipped, mostly due to a drop in international students receiving visas and limited opportunities to connect with high school students.

CMU has a full-time equivalent of 760, down from 875 last year. Three-quarters of the student body hails from Manitoba, with 12% from outside Canada. Self-declared Indigenous students make up 7%.

Goshen College total enrollment fell from 811 to 771 students in traditional undergraduate, adult and graduate programs. Students numbered 899 two years ago.

Traditional undergraduate enrollment is 699, and graduate students number 51. The decline from 62 graduate students last year is driven by losses in the master of science in nursing — Goshen’s largest graduate program — which could be challenged by pandemic nursing workforce demands and impacts.

Nearly 30% of students identify as Hispanic, and 11 % are international.

Hesston College fall enrollment figures followed national trends with a headcount of 325, a 4% decrease from the previous year. However, international students increased by 3%.

In contrast to a decline in first-time freshman, bachelor’s degree programs increased. Now in its second full year of instruction, the school of management welcomed 12 juniors, and the first junior cohort began studies in the school of engineering.

With 192 new students enrolled at Tabor College, the traditional, on-campus enrollment of undergraduates fell back to 505 students after rising last fall to 549. The number was 504 two years ago. Total enrollment, which includes adult students, online programs such as graduate studies and dual-credit high school students, is 637 students, down from 688 last fall.

Fresno Pacific University enrollment is 14% lower than a year ago, dropping by nearly 500 to 3,029. Graduate programs climbed by three students to 1,288, but degree completion fell by 301 to 992. Traditional undergraduates decreased by 129 to 749. Enrollment at Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary, which is part of the overall graduate enrollment, decreased by 10 to 111 students.

Anabaptist World

Anabaptist World Inc. (AW) is an independent journalistic ministry serving the global Anabaptist movement. We seek to inform, inspire and Read More

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