Enrollment kick: The surprising factors behind one small private university’s 30% boost this fall

The University of Bridgeport, after getting bought out by Goodwin University, is enjoying a bit of a renaissance.

After more than three decades of unsteadiness, a $32 million takeover by Goodwin University in 2021 and enrollment losses over the past four cycles, could the University of Bridgeport really be making a comeback?

Bridgeport, under the direction of new president Dr. Danielle Wilken, announced on Monday that enrollments of first-year students have jumped by 30% for the fall semester. With 1,322 incoming students, it is climbing back toward the 5,000 mark. The difference between now and then is that there is no more talk of potential mergers, and it can operate under an entity, Goodwin, that is growing, too.

But what is driving this suddenly renewed interest in this once cast-off and nearly shuttered Connecticut university? It is a combination of factors, including a couple of surprising ones, notably the commitment to add five new varsity sports (men’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field) at a time when other universities are cutting them. That has meant an infusion of 133 new student-athletes this year.

“We have always offered a quality athletic program,” says Jay Moran, University of Bridgeport Vice President of Athletics and Recreation. “We now have some of the biggest roster sizes we’ve ever had, and that is a testament to the quality of our coaches and staff.”

But it is far more than that. Now that the pandemic has largely subsided, the career-oriented UB is seeing huge interest from the international community. It has brought on 600 new students across 22 countries this fall, many of whom are interested in engineering or business programs. Central to that uptick, officials say, has been the work of its International Admissions Office and the Enrollment Advisory Group (EAG).

“We have exciting programs like MS in Artificial Intelligence, MS in Analytics and Systems, MS in Computer Science, Ph.D. in Computer Science and Engineering, and Ph.D. in Technology Management,” says Dr. Khaled Elleithy, professor of Computer Science and Engineering and Dean of the College of Engineering, Business, and Education. “All have witnessed significant growth this year due to their uniqueness and reputation.”

Allison Garris, Dean of Admissions, also credits the work of their team to identify and bring in students from every socio-economic background. All of Bridgeport’s students receive some form of financial aid, and the diversity of its enrollees is among the best in the nation: 33.7% Black, 30% Hispanic, and 24.3% white. “The team has shown an unwavering devotion to our students and access to higher education,” Garris says. “Their hard work, flexibility, and positive attitudes brought us to where we are today.”

At last count according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, Bridgeport had about 3,500 students, including 71% women. Momentum from this fall already appears to be growing, as the university has seen applications for the spring of 2023 increase by more than 7,000 year over year, led by international students.

Chris Burt
Chris Burt
Chris is a reporter and associate editor for University Business and District Administration magazines, covering the entirety of higher education and K-12 schools. Prior to coming to LRP, Chris had a distinguished career as a multifaceted editor, designer and reporter for some of the top newspapers and media outlets in the country, including the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel, Albany Times-Union and The Boston Globe. He is a graduate of Northeastern University.

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