First-year students gather for their class photo at the start of their first semester at Eastern Mennonite University. (Photo by Jon Styer)

EMU achieves record enrollment

Enrollment increased this fall by 8 percent over the previous fall at Eastern Mennonite University, counting all students enrolled in for-credit coursework. The numbers rose from 1,519 to 1,640, a record enrollment for this 96-year-old institution.

In traditional undergraduate population, there was a 2 percent increase, from 912 to 929 students, based on head counts in early September 2012 and 2013.

“I am especially proud of the fact that we attracted a high number of ethnic and racially diverse students,” said Luke Hartman, PhD, vice-president for enrollment. “I believe EMU may be heading toward being one of the most diverse liberal arts institutions in the state. Greater diversity will, of course, enhance the university experience for all of our students, developing their critical-thinking abilities and emotional intelligence.”

Older students seeking graduate degrees or returning to school to finish their undergraduate degrees were the most significant area of enrollment growth for EMU.

The older-adult group was heavily concentrated in graduate education outside of the seminary, with the total number of students in six master’s programs increasing by 27 percent, from 271 to 343 students.

Two new master’s degree programs – in nursing (online) and in biomedicine – contributed heavily to the increase, with the former accounting for 61 students, 74 percent more than the previous year, and the latter accounting for 22 students, three times more than were enrolled the previous year, its first year of operation.

Close behind the graduate programs in growth were those serving adults who wish to complete their bachelor’s degrees. There’s a caveat in reporting the adult-program enrollment statistics: these adults study within cohorts that start at irregular intervals throughout the year, rather than being synchronized to the typical two-semester academic calendar. This makes it problematical to compare enrollment at the same point in time for successive years.

Being mindful of the caveat, EMU officials are cautiously optimistic that the fall 2013 adult-degree-completion enrollment statistics may prove to be a harbinger of a jump in total adult enrollment for the coming academic year.

As of Sept. 10, 2013, adult-degree-completion enrollment at the Lancaster site was 121; last September, it was 79. The Lancaster students are all upgrading their RN degrees to Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees. On the main Harrisonburg campus, enrollment was 102 this fall, compared to 98 last fall. Harrisonburg offers the bachelor’s program for RNs, as well as a bachelor’s degree in Management & Organizational Development. With 223 students enrolled altogether, these two sites are showing a 26 percent increase in enrollment.

For coursework that is not counted as college credit, EMU’s Intensive English Program (IEP) has seen a dramatic increase in enrollment, necessitating a move to larger quarters on the Harrisonburg campus in 2012. Since the fall of 2012, IEP enrollment has jumped from 61 to 85, a 39 percent increase.

Seminary enrollment has been flat for a number of years, a trend that likely reflects the shrinkage in the membership of traditional churches in wider society.