Writer: Joey Garrand
3 min read March 2022 — The U.S. population under age 18 declined over the last decade, and that trend is anticipated to continue. This decline combined with the challenges stemming from the pandemic has created a litany of issues for enrollment in higher education. Invest: spoke with leaders in the sector regarding the current state of enrollment at their institutions.
Joseph DiAngelo, Dean, St. Joseph’s University – Haub School of Business
International students took a hit because of some of the policies by the previous administration in combination with the pandemic. It is not back to where it was, but it is starting to come back with lots of applications. However, we had 55 international students that we accepted for Fall 2021 and very few of them showed up due to visa struggles and COVID regulations.
International students still want to come to the United States, especially for business and sciences because of the opportunities for work. President Biden recently changed the policies for what are recognized as STEM certified programs, allowing students taking such programs to stay in the country three years after graduating, whereas if you are not in a STEM certified program you can only stay one year.
Eric Darr, President, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology
We’ve seen a six percent decline across all degree programs, varying with each type of degree. Within the last four years, we have launched a number of doctoral programs that have received great interest and attention over the course of the pandemic. We’ve been able to expand our offerings and address student interest in our professional development programs. Our professional development programs have experienced a significant expansion, tripling in total students since 2019. They often want to have the opportunity to advance their own careers.
There have been federal immigration and travel restrictions that have made the recruitment of international students difficult. We’ve seen a ten to fifteen percent decline. The impact on our international students was substantial. However, we expect as federal immigration and travel restrictions are lifted that our international student numbers will return to their previous levels. International students remain very interested in our data analytics and computer science programs.
Michael Mittelman, President, Salus University
We’re blessed. We train only graduate-level students and our professions are those that are in demand and people want to participate in. Our overall enrollment has increased slightly since 2019. We purposefully downsized our Doctor of Optometry program because the national applicant pool is flat and we want to ensure we’re getting only the best and brightest students here at Salus, but our other programs have grown. We are very stable and doing exceptionally well.
Marilyn Wells, Chancellor, Penn State – Brandywine
Across the nation, enrollment in higher education has been declining and decreased further since the start of the pandemic. Our enrollment at Penn State Brandywine has matched the pace of, and even been better than, the national average. We’ve remained steady throughout this time, but enrollment growth is one of our top goals. To support our growth plans, we’ve launched new bachelor’s degree programs in computer science, cybersecurity analytics and operations, and project and supply chain management. We have a new minor underway that will focus on entrepreneurship, among other new academic offerings. Students can complete all four years of their bachelor’s degree at Penn State Brandywine, participating in mentoring and internships along the way. Partnerships are vital to the success of our new programs and to pushing the Greater Philadelphia business economy and quality of life forward.
Ajay Nair, President, Arcadia University
At Arcadia, we’ve been spearheading initiatives toward recruitment and retention. We have been actively exploring options to launch and develop several new programs. For example, Arcadia’s College of Health Sciences is offering its No. 24-ranked Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program in an online, accredited format. This is an important step in helping to address the healthcare talent gap. We are continuing to look into other successful online and hybrid programs we can launch to better serve our students and employers. Some of these areas include applied behavior analysis, special education and autism, an MBA and Physician Assistant program, and certificate programs.
Many of these new programs will not only drive enrollment, but also help to meet the needs of the Philadelphia region and beyond. We’ve already seen an increase in our graduate enrollment, especially in the health sciences for some time. Arcadia is also healthy from an undergraduate enrollment perspective. We are in an extraordinarily competitive environment in Philadelphia, so we are working to ensure enrollment by meeting the needs of our students, stakeholders and the workforce.
Recruiting students, of course, is only half of it. You also have to retain them. This is one of the major issues in higher education. Arcadia, fortunately, does better than the national average in terms of retention, but we must continue to improve for all students. It is not just about bringing students in. It is about making sure they succeed and thrive at the institution. That is a primary focus for us.
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