Bucking the Trend: Enrollment Rising at Some Institutions

Much speculation has been generated by the most recent national enrollment statistics from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC), with reports indicating a continued two-year downward enrollment trend of nearly 10%. However, hope is on the horizon as many schools are bucking this trend, reporting higher than expected and even record-breaking enrollment numbers. 

Arizona State University, Lindenwood University, Evangel University, Grand Canyon University, Kean University and Fisk University, are just some examples of higher education institutions that are welcoming more students this fall than anticipated. Highlights of each institution’s success are explored below.

Arizona State University is welcoming a record-breaking freshman class of over 15,115 students, with an additional 2,721 new first-year students participating in ASU’s expansive online program. A total of 79,232 students will be enrolled across ASU’s campuses, a three percent increase in student enrollment  from last year. Out of total students, one in three are first-generation college students. 

The incoming class at ASU also holds the record number of Hispanic students to enroll at the university, making up nearly a quarter of the new first-year campus students identifying as Hispanic/Latino. This record comes in the wake of ASU being named as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education this past June.

“ASU is growing because there is high demand for knowledge and a need for creative and effective solutions to the challenges facing our nation and our planet,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “Students who are ready and eager to expand their intellect and to make a positive impact have a place at ASU. We welcome learners of all backgrounds, perspectives and interests, and we look forward to helping them thrive.”

For its part, Lindenwood University begins the Fall 2022 semester with thriving enrollment and great excitement for the year ahead. As the University enters the second year of the Lindenwood 2026 Strategic Plan and begins competition as an NCAA Division I institution, the University is taking bold steps towards a prosperous future.

The University welcomes 2,056 new students, a 9% increase over last year and the largest class of new students since 2014. In addition to the overall rise in enrollments, Lindenwood also experienced an 18% increase in first-time freshmen students. These students join a thriving community of traditional freshmen, transfer, international, and online students supported by dedicated staff and excellent faculty.

“This is an incredible time to be part of the Lindenwood University community,” President Dr. John Porter said. “Welcoming this outstanding group of new students is a testament to the campus-wide commitment to serve our students and provide a top-notch educational experience. We are dedicated to ensuring that every student matters and has the resources they need to succeed at Lindenwood.”

Lindenwood continues its commitment to diversity with 139 new international students from 44 countries joining the campus community, marking an 8% increase from last year. Countries represented include Bermuda, Australia, Spain, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Curacao. Domestically, Lindenwood continues to see the largest enrollments from Missouri, Illinois, California, Florida, and Oklahoma. The University also saw 17% increase in overall applications, surpassing 2,800 applications for the Fall 2022 semester. 

Evangel University is also experiencing a surge in undergraduate enrollment. The new university president, Mike Rakes, attributes the climbing rates to their efforts to elevate the student experience. With considerable donations, the university was able to improve student centers, residence halls, and sports courts. Last year, roughly 2,100 students were enrolled at EU, counting traditional undergraduate, graduate, online and seminary students and enrollment is up roughly 10% overall this fall, 16% for new students.

"It's exciting growth. A rising tide lifts all boats, and I think that is what is happening," said Mike Rakes, entering his second year as Evangel President. "In every area, there is just increase."

Grand Canyon University is another example of a college welcoming its largest freshman class. The university will welcome its largest incoming class ever of approximately 9,700 expected new students, bringing the total enrollment to about 25,000.

For 14 consecutive years, GCU has committed to providing affordable education by freezing campus tuition rates. Data from the NSCRC study indicate that students from high poverty high schools were more likely to not attend college straight from high school graduation than students who attended low poverty schools. A similar trend is seen with students attending a high-majority high school. “We’re not seeing that,” GCU President Brian Mueller said. “By keeping tuition affordable, we’re ensuring that higher education is attainable for all socioeconomic classes. Of our 9,700 new students this year, more than 2,800 of those will be first-generation college students. That’s significant and is a very positive part of the GCU story.”

Kean University officials announced that they, too, are seeing a record-breaking incoming class. Fall 2022 enrollment is projected to be the highest in the university’s history, with more than 2,000 students already registered for classes. Kean, a federally designated Hispanic-Serving Institution, also boasts record growth in its Supera Spanish-Speaking Program. Incoming student enrollment for Supera increased 250% over 2021, reflecting a nationwide trend that shows growth in Hispanic student enrollment.

Additionally, through the Kean Tuition Promise program, the university increased the enrollment of low-income students for this term. The program covers up to full tuition and fees in the first two years for students who apply as freshmen and meet eligibility requirements. Moreover, eligible students could get a free four-year college education by combining the Kean Tuition Promise with New Jersey’s Garden State Guarantee, a program that offers financial aid in the third and fourth years of study at New Jersey public universities.

“Kean University takes care of students through academic and financial aid support services that help them realize their dream of earning a college degree,” said Marsha McCarthy, Vice President for Enrollment Services at Kean. “A college education is a big investment for students and their families. Kean seeks to maximize students’ return on that investment by providing an exceptional college experience that is affordable, accessible and takes students to where they want to be.”

Meanwhile, Fisk University, a renowned historically black college and university (HBCU) in Nashville, said it has welcomed its largest freshmen class, in more than 40 years, to campus this fall. The incoming student body includes under 400 students, nearly doubling the university’s total enrollment from 630 students in 2017 to 1,050 this coming school year.

Fisk has seen an explosive growth and interest in the school in the last few years and this record setting class joins a list of recent achievements for the university, including: financing for two new buildings, fundraising records nearly doubling the school’s total endowment, and being ranked the number one university for academic stewardship by AcademicInfluence.com, an organization whose goal is to identify and foster what is best in higher education.

Though these reports inspire hope, the academic year has just begun and it’s far too early to know if they are the exception to the NSCRC stats report or a forerunner of a national enrollment increase. Will the two-year decline begin to plateau or even begin to rise? The closing of universities’ enrollment period is fast approaching and the higher education field is eager to turn the tides.