, 2022-08-31 05:00:24,
At a time when many higher education institutions, public and private, are struggling with enrollment, Evangel University is growing.
The Springfield-based campus experienced a surge in undergraduate enrollment this fall — 16 percent — due to an increase in freshmen and transfer 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.”
Rakes, a long-time pastor with higher education experience, took the job a year ago and chartered a plan for growth. It started with taking care of the students who were already on campus, or learning remotely.
“We said we wanted to elevate the student experience and so all of our teams — every team at the university — became focused on doing just that,” he said.
There were small changes, like improving customer service or wait times. Others were large, like building Valor basketball courts, adding on-campus amenities, and sprucing up residence halls and the coffee shop.
“Every residence hall has new carpet and the lobbies have 75-inch TVs…so the kids are riding high right now. They’re excited, but that was the strategy,” Rakes said. “If we can elevate the fun and joy they have outside the classroom we felt that would increase retention, which it did.”
Evangel added new club sports and service-learning options with community partners like Convoy of Hope.
Last year, the university’s total enrollment was 2,129 including traditional undergraduate, graduate, online and seminary students.
Rakes said total enrollment is up roughly 10 percent overall this fall and 16 percent for new students.
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“We’ve had a large surge in transfer students,” Rakes said. “Clarifying our story, and the great story that Evangel is, has helped keep us in the marketplace where students are considering where they’re going to finish up their college career.”
He said non-traditional students in online and graduate programs are trending up. The university is also seeing a surge in seminary with enrollment running 60 percent ahead of last year’s census.
Evangel continues to draw most of its students from the Midwest but pulls from all over the U.S. This year, 11 countries are represented in the student population.
The official enrollment count will occur in early September.
Asked why Evangel is bucking the national…
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