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Mennonite higher education enrollments mixed for fall 2018

10.8. 2018 Written By: Rachel McMaster, Hesston College 1,017 read

A joint release of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (Elkhart, Indiana), Bethel College (North Newton, Kansas), Bluffton (Ohio) University; Eastern Mennonite University (Harrisonburg, Virginia), Goshen (Indiana) College, and Hesston (Kansas) College

Following a year of increased enrollments and positive future outlooks, five of the six Mennonite colleges, universities and seminaries faced overall enrollment dips this fall. Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) was the only Mennonite institution to report overall enrollment growth for 2018, and the Collaborative MBA program saw its highest enrollment to date.

The academic quality of students at the Mennonite institutions remains high, with an average high school GPA of 3.44 for first-year students—an increase from 3.38 in 2017.

Based on each institution’s official census report for fall 2018, some slight increases within certain populations wasn’t enough to boost overall enrollment.

Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary

AMBS reported overall enrollment growth for 2018, increasing from 109 to 115 between 2017 and 2018. While seminary/graduate enrollment dipped slightly to 98 from 103, an enrollment increase in the Journey Missional Leadership Development Program—a two-and-a-half-year undergraduate-level nondegree program of AMBS’s Church Leadership Center—made up the difference and contributed to the overall boost. The seminary student body includes 27 students from outside the United States.

“We’re pleased with the continued growth of our international student population,” says Daniel Grimes, director of enrollment and financial aid. “AMBS students have the opportunity to study with people from across the world. We’re also enjoying increased vibrancy on campus as our housing is completely full, with students from every inhabited continent living on campus.”

Bethel College

Bethel College reported a total enrollment of 444 for this fall, compared with 503 a year ago. Total enrollment includes a new undergraduate headcount of 152. Total undergraduate student enrollment is 437 with seven students enrolled in degree-completion programs.

“While our total enrollment lacks the numbers we would like, we are excited about the overall quality and character of Bethel students,” says Andy Johnson, vice president for admissions. “Early indications from faculty point to a strong incoming class that is ready to work in the classroom, through acts of service with the local community and in a wide variety of extracurricular activities. We look forward to the possibility of rebounding with a strong enrollment class in the coming year as Bethel benefits from the stability and leadership of President Gering.”

Bluffton University

Bluffton University reported a total enrollment of 770, compared with 824 a year ago. New undergraduate students number 193. Total undergraduate student enrollment is 655, with an additional 115 students enrolled in degree-completion and graduate programs.

“Our first-year cohort is smaller than we had hoped, but the class is very strong and includes one of our largest groups of international students in recent years,” says Robin Bowlus, interim vice president of enrollment management. “The class includes five valedictorians, 13 National Merit Scholars and/or student council members, 33 percent are ranked in the top quarter of their graduating class and there are 13 international students from 10 countries. We are excited to have all our first-year students join our campus community.”

Eastern Mennonite University

EMU was the only college to bring in a larger class—197 students—in 2018 than the year before, with a 4.2 percent increase. Total enrollment is 1,550, compared with 1,633 in 2017. A new undergraduate number of 230 contributes to a total undergraduate enrollment of 831, and 719 students are enrolled in graduate, degree-completion and noncredit programs and seminary.

Our first-year student numbers have increased from last year, and those students are counted among one of our top academic classes in a number of years,” says Jim Smucker, vice president for enrollment and student life at EMU. “In addition, we are confident that several innovative and targeted enrollment strategies will continue this trend for the near term.”

Goshen College

Goshen’s total undergraduate enrollment increased 2 percent, from 750 to 762, in the last year. A dip in adult degree-completion programs contributed to a slight overall enrollment decrease to 927 students in 2018 from 950 in 2017. Total enrollment includes a new undergraduate student headcount of 251, and 165 students are enrolled in graduate and degree-completion programs. Overall, 43 percent are students of color or international students, and 45 percent of first-year students identify as nonwhite.

President Rebecca Stoltzfus says, “Our first-year class brings a strong academic profile, and our student body is the most diverse overall in the history of the college. I look forward to discovering what each of our students will offer to our campus community.”

Hesston College

Following a 10 percent enrollment boost in 2017, Hesston’s total enrollment dropped to 420 for 2018, which is also the five-year average. Of the total student population, 184 students are new in 2018.

“One population that was exciting to watch this past recruitment cycle was students seeking an aviation degree,” says Rachel Swartzendruber Miller, vice president of enrollment. “Our new aviation student numbers more than doubled, from eight to 18, since last fall, which echoes the reality of job demand in the aviation market. We will continue to watch trends across all industries and try to respond appropriately with our programs of study.”

The Collaborative MBA program

With its highest enrollment to date, the Collaborative MBA, a joint program of Bluffton University, Canadian Mennonite University, Eastern Mennonite University and Goshen College, has 17 students starting the two-year program this fall.

“We are pleased with the largest enrollment ever in the Collaborative MBA program. In its fifth cohort, we have 17 students enrolled, and there is an incredible mix of international students, students with extensive international experience and students with nontraditional Mennonite backgrounds,” says George Lehman, director of the Collaborative MBA. “The program is attracting adult students from within and beyond the Mennonite church; the program is exceeding our goals.”

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