Enrollment on the rise

The enrollment numbers at Gannon University have surpassed a record high that hasn’t been seen in nearly two decades.

According to Vice President of Enrollment Bill Edmondson, Gannon’s class of incoming freshmen – listed at 675 students – is the highest the university has seen in more than 18 years.

Edmondson said he was impressed with the numbers because of the declining demographic of high school students. The number of students participating in the dual-enrollment programs has significantly dropped.

“We did well in a market where there are actually fewer prospective students than in recent years,” Edmondson said. “From an undergraduate’s perspective, it probably seems a lot busier on campus.

“The echo of the baby boom is trailing off, so that’s why the demographics are going down. I think the new things that we put in place will allow us to continue some of the strong enrollments that we’ve seen.”

Edmondson attributed  the enrollment growth to several factors, including a revamped scholarship program and the university’s decision to join The Common Application, which allows applicants to fill out a single application that can be viewed by several colleges at once.

“We’re able to expose Gannon to students that maybe traditionally we’d not,” said Terry Kizina, director of undergraduate admissions. “We get on their radars, and that has helped us very much.”

According to Edmondson, this was the first year that Gannon sent out scholarship information with its acceptance letters.

“When a student got accepted, they also knew what scholarship level they were going to get,” he said.

Gannon also changed the way that the Valedictorian Scholarship was awarded, instead holding an academic competition to determine the receivers of a full-tuition grant.

“We expected 30, hoped for 50, and we had 120,” Edmondson said, referring to the number of scholarship competitors.

According to Edmondson, the growth in enrollment was “across the board,” although the health professions remain the most popular majors. Gannon even added a new biomedical engineering major to its course offerings, and despite the recent accreditation of the program, the university still accepted nine new freshmen this fall, according to Kizina.

“That’s a significant number considering the time that we had to recruit that population,” Kizina said. “With our strong engineering and health backgrounds, biomedical engineering was a natural thing to now offer, and students flocked to it.”

This year’s new enrollment also includes an increase in undergraduate international students, now at 78 students, up from 43 last year. Gannon has students from 34 states and 32 countries, according to Kizina.

“When we look at our population, sometimes we think it as very local, and in some ways it is,” Kizina said. “However, when we look at our entire population, students are coming from all over. Maybe that speaks to what our reach is and really what it could be.”

Gannon’s administration is excited by the increased enrollment, especially out-of-state and international students, because the university’s population will continue to get stronger. “I think, the further you reach, the more stable your enrollment will be over time,” Edmondson said. “That way you’re not dependent on one area.”

Although this incoming undergraduate class is the highest Gannon has seen in 18 years, Edmondson was realistic in his approach to the coming years. He even acknowledged that other colleges will see what Gannon has accomplished and seek to improve their enrollment, too.

“It’s kind of an ebb and a flow,” Edmondson said. “But we’re optimistic that we’ll be able to maintain and incrementally grow the levels that we’re at.”

Both Edmondson and Kizina acknowledged that the entire university staff is to be congratulated for this year’s record-setting enrollment.

“It’s not just admissions,” Kizina said. “It’s Financial Aid. It’s New Student Services. It’s the faculty. It’s everyone.”

“It takes a university to recruit a class,” Edmondson said.

With this year’s enrollment, Gannon has shown it possesses what applicants are looking for, and if the faculty unity is any indication, Gannon’s numbers will continue to grow.

“We made an awful lot of changes this year,” Edmondson said. “We’re going to allow those to settle a little bit, and then look for the next opportunity.”


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