NE Indiana colleges see mixed bag in first-year student enrollment

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – After a tumultuous 2020-21 school year disrupted a typical college environment, many Indiana colleges are seeing stronger enrollment in first-year students this fall.

Large institutions like Purdue and IU’s main campus have announced record enrollment sizes, along with a few regional schools in northeast Indiana. Grace College in Warsaw announced in a release that they welcomed an all-time high of 471 new students to campus.

Meanwhile, Trine University welcomed a record 725 new students between first-year’s and transfer students. This is the second straight year that the university has welcomed a larger first-year class. In Fall 2019, Trine welcomed 685 (616 first-year and 69 transfers) students, with that number increasing by 10 in Fall 2020.

Around the same time last year, many colleges were limited in how they were able to recruit prospective students. Kim Bennett, Trine University’s vice president for enrollment management, believes the return of admissions counselors visiting high schools and campus tours played a role in the larger enrollment sizes. However, she also noticed a higher amount of applications than previous years.

“I tell you this Fall 2021 we were getting solid applications in March and April and May when normally we don’t see those strong students, and it would’ve been the first time they’ve visited, the first time they applied,” Bennett said. “So it was definitely a year like no other.”

While a few regional schools celebrated larger enrollment sizes this fall, that was not the case for every northeast Indiana university.

A spokesperson for Huntington University told WANE 15 that they project about the same amount of first-year students enrolled for the 2021-22 school year. In 2019, 230 new students (206 first-years and 24 first-year transfers) joined the campus. That figure slightly increased for the 2020 fall semester to 248 (224 first-years and 24 first-year transfers).

Meanwhile, Purdue Fort Wayne’s (PFW) has seen the number of new students dip for the second consecutive year. In Fall 2019, PFW welcomed 1,609 new students to campus. That dipped to 1,388 in Fall 2020. This fall, 1,293 first-year students enrolled at PFW.

WANE 15 also reached out to Manchester University and the University of St. Francis (USF) for first-year enrollment figures. Manchester University has not replied yet, and USF declined.

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