More colleges breaking summer enrollment records

'In times of economic trouble, people turn to higher education as a path to a brighter future'

Stay-safe-at-home orders that have sidetracked students’ plans for travel, study abroad, internships and jobs is a key reason California Lutheran University has hit an all-time for summer enrollment, leaders there say.

The university has seen a 33% increase in its virtual summer classes, an increase from 431 students last year to 574. This summer is the first time the Southern California university has offered its entire slate of 165 undergraduate courses.

The university says its continuing students are driving the increase as the numbers of first-year students and learners attending other schools remained unchanged this summer.

These students are also taking more classes than in past summers, with the average increase from about 4.5 credits last year to 6.4 this year. The university offered a $1,000 fall tuition credit to students taking five or more credits during the summer.

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Among the new courses offered this summer is one called “Advertising During Crisis,” which was developed in response to the pandemic.

Enrollment gain could continue into the fall

Online learning has also helped Georgia Southwestern State University set a summer enrollment record, with an increase of 6% over 2019.

Administrators expect the upward enrollment trend to continue in the fall, as the university has waived application fees and dropped SAT/ACT requirements, the university said in a news release.

The university, also known as GSW, has seen enrollment of a wide range of students, from graduating high school seniors to business executives.

The biggest enrollment gains have come at the graduate level, with the MBA program, the masters in early childhood education and new Ed.S. in teacher leadership among the most popular.

“In times of economic trouble, people turn to higher education as a path to a brighter future,” university President Neal Weaver said in a statement. “This is certainly welcome news considering the decline that was predicted by industry experts because of COVID-19.”

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Administrators say enrollment began to grow as soon as colleges and universities began shutting campuses due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The flexibility of online classes is a major factor in the enrollment record, said Carol Bishop, director of the MBA program.

Student Koren MacDonald, who is the Detroit-based human resources manager for a hotel chain and has three children, said the slow down in the travel industry gave her time to work on completing an MBA.

“Pursuing this degree online will give me the flexibility to keep my commitments to my family and community,” MacDonald said on the university’s website. “My hope is that investing this time into furthering my education will give me the competitive edge to navigate the post-COVID-19 business world.”

An opportunity in online learning

Also in Georgia, Kennesaw State University’s summer enrollment has grown significantly over the past two years, culminating in a record 20,000-plus students this summer, a 14% increase over last year.

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The university has expanded its summer course offerings and has been marketing the benefits of summer classes.

“I am impressed by our students who are enrolled in summer classes, for seeing the current reality of entirely remote learning as an opportunity rather than an obstacle to advance toward their academic goals,” President Pamela Whitten said. “Summer coursework offers benefits such as easier access to high-demand classes and courses offered in a condensed format.”

Kennesaw State’s summer enrollment includes more than 17,000 returning students and more than 2,300 incoming freshmen and transfers.

UB’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on higher ed.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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