Fall 2020 census data is in, and this year, Concordia University Ann Arbor not only bucked the downward undergraduate enrollment trend of colleges and universities nationwide, the campus notched yet another record-breaking year on multiple fronts.

CUAA hit record-high totals for its undergraduate enrollment and incoming freshmen class size. The fall 2020 total undergraduate enrollment count—1,010—is up 34 students from last fall’s census number, and CUAA’s 250-person freshman class beats out last year’s total by 27. The freshmen class also has the highest average GPA since the merge with the Mequon campus in 2013.

The numbers add to the Ann Arbor campus’ celebrated seven-year undergraduate enrollment climb and further solidify its place as the fastest-growing public or private college in Michigan over the past five years, according to IPEDS data. Since the merge, CUAA has seen a 75 percent increase in total undergraduate enrollment. The fruits of growing class sizes year over year are now being reflected in the campus’ graduation numbers as well. Since 2014, CUAA’s total annual degree conferrals have increased by 38 percent.

“We give thanks to God for the students He has brought to Concordia and their engagement in our mission, especially in this uncommon time,” said Vice President of Administration Rev. Dr. Ryan Peterson. “This positive news is a direct reflection of many dedicated faculty, staff, and university leaders, and Concordia’s complete commitment to our mission of serving students, preparing them for service to Christ in the Church and the world. We do not take for granted how incredibly blessed we are to have a celebration of this magnitude in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.”

Upending the trend: A national decline of freshmen and low-income students

CUAA’s numbers stand in stark contrast to the national data. Public, four-year universities saw about a 4 percent decline in freshman student enrollment, according to a report released earlier this month from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. In Michigan, freshman enrollment was down nearly 10 percent.

Nationwide, first-time freshmen enrollment dropped by just over 19 percent for public, two-year schools and 12 percent for public, four-year schools, the data also showed.

National news outlets cite the coronavirus pandemic as the culprit for most schools’ enrollment decline and the concerning drop-out rates among low-income students. Concordia, by contrast, has rolled out extra initiatives to keep its Pell Grant-eligible population well served. Under the capable leadership of CUAA Academic Resource Center Director Dr. Tori Negash, Concordia launched an extra support program this fall, called Destination Cardinal, geared primarily toward first-generation and low-income students.

The university’s Advancement department also took up a campaign to ensure students at every financial level had access to a personal electronic device. The Digital Angel Campaign superseded its target goal, making even more computers accessible to students in need.

Growing graduate enrollment: 4 promising programs in the pipeline

While undergraduates represent the bulk of CUAA’s student body, nearly 14 percent of enrollment is comprised of graduate-level learners. This year’s total enrollment at CUAA is 1,173, down just 1 percent from last year due to a slight dip in graduate enrollment. Already, the university has laid the groundwork to course-correct.

Multiple graduate-level programs are scheduled for launch within the next three years, including: Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (starts January 2021), Master of Arts in Digital Humanities (starts fall 2021), and CUAA’s first-ever doctorate programs, Doctorate of Occupational Therapy (fall 2022) and Doctorate of Physical Therapy (fall 2023). Additionally, the nation’s only three-year Master of Science in Athletic Training program is beginning to hit its stride, with its first cohort of graduates now in the field.

Related: See more at-a-glance facts about CUAA here.

Concordia University is affiliated with The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and operates two residential campuses in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Mequon, Wisconsin. The university also serves nontraditional students through adult accelerated centers located throughout Wisconsin and through online programs that reach learners worldwide. Learn more about the Mequon campus’ 2020 enrollment data here.

— This story is written by Kali Thiel, director of university communications for Concordia University Ann Arbor and Wisconsin. She may be reached at kali.thiel@cuw.edu or 262-243-2149.

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