In March, Southern Adventist University students were forced to evacuate campus and transition to distance learning due to the rapid spread of COVID-19 across the United States. Because of changes and concerns related to the pandemic, Southern administration feared a possible drop in enrollment.
Doug Frood, executive director of budgeting, said that enrollment projections for returning students for the Fall 2020 semester were exceeded. In total, 2,730 students are enrolled for the fall.
In an email to employees, President David Smith highlighted the positive results at a time of societal upheaval.
“Given the more catastrophic scenarios we considered, we should each praise God for an enrollment result that allows us to vigorously pursue our mission with our full workforce intact,” he wrote. “Though we still have budgetary issues to address, we should praise the Lord for the wonderful student body with which God has blessed us and our ongoing financial stability.”
In later communication with the Accent, the President’s Cabinet explained that this is an unusual year, which makes it difficult to measure enrollment by the usual metrics.
On a nationwide scale, it was predicted that colleges would lose a large portion of their enrollment. In an article about a survey conducted by Inside Higher Ed, Scott Jaschik wrote that four-year institutions could see a drop of up to 20 percent in enrollment. The survey also concluded that while some students said they would not be returning to on-campus learning, many of those students were equally unsatisfied with online learning. Alternative plans such as gap years and hybrid learning were also evaluated, with popularity rising for both of those options.
Michael T. Nietzal, a contributor to Forbes magazine, wrote that enrollment has increased across the country despite the current COVID-19 pandemic. Online learning has become even more prevalent, with many students opting to take college courses all-online. Undergraduate enrollment in both public and private nonprofit four-year colleges was driven by students aged 18-20, and by high school dual enrollees, with 8 percent and 17 percent growth, respectively (Source: Forbes).
“We’re doing things that nobody has a roadmap for,” Frood said. “But I think in our leadership, everybody has done a terrific job to figure it out.”