North Park Undergraduate Enrollment Reaches New High

Post a Comment » Written on September 19th, 2008     
Filed under: News
CHICAGO, IL (September 19, 2008) – North Park University has again achieved a record undergraduate enrollment, says Mark Olson, dean of enrollment and director of church relations.

Enrollment grew to 1,882 students from 1,854 last year. Freshmen enrollment jumped to 415 from 375.

Since the school restructured its tuition in 2004, enrollment has increased 33 percent, up from 1,415, Olson says.

The increase appears even more dramatic when comparing enrollment to that of nearly 20 years ago when the school faced serious financial difficulties. In 1989, undergraduate enrollment was just 770.

The number of students enrolled in graduate programs also increased over the past year, rising to 720 from 691. Total enrollment grew to 3,285 students from 3,251.

Traditional ways of contacting students have become less productive for most institutions.

There was modest decline noted in two categories, however – North Park Theological Seminary enrollment edged down from 288 students to 274, while students participating in non-traditional undergraduate programs declined from 418 to 409.

Olson said several factors have led to the increased undergraduate enrollment. He noted that there was no turnover among the admissions counseling staff, which provides continuity. The school also dramatically increased the number of college fairs it attended. Last year, staff participated in 120 fairs. Previously, the university was represented at roughly 40. The school plans to have a presence at about 110 college fairs this year.

Olson says the school decided to increase its presence at college fairs because traditional ways of contacting students have become less productive for most institutions. One method that has become less fruitful is obtaining the names of potential students from testing organizations such as ACT and SAT.

“The chances of a student giving a positive response to a letter that comes from out of the blue are very slim unless you have a national brand,” Olson explains.

Increasingly, students also are taking the initiative to contact the schools. More than half the students attending North Park this year were unknown to the university until the students expressed interest, Olson says.

Many students are securing promotional material at the college fairs, but don’t leave their names with the recruiter, Olson says. The students prefer to take the material home before paring down the number of schools in which they are interested. “They are getting so much mail already, and they don’t want to get any more.”

The school also began offering an additional $1,000 to new transfer students who attended Covenant churches, Olson says.

Olson says the closing of Covenant Bible College has meant the loss of roughly 40 students a year. Some of the students who attended the one-year program would transfer directly to North Park. Other CBC students transferred to North Park after initially attending a different academic institution.

“The problem for us is that there were a number of students who had never heard of North Park before they went to CBC,” Olson says. “They (CBC) were a good feeder for us.”

The effect of the tightening economy on future enrollment is uncertain, Olson says, adding, “We’re very concerned about it.

“Historically, education has done well when there is an economic downturn,” Olson says, People continue to invest in their education to improve their opportunities during times of uncertainty, he explains.

The credit crunch may have an adverse effect on obtaining non-governmental student loans, Olson says. He noted that some families have helped fund children’s education with home equity loans, but the drop in housing values may limit the availability of those loans or the amount that can be borrowed.

Olson says the school’s tuition program makes the school more attractive in the current market. “We’re $6,000 below the national average for private schools.”

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