Spring enrollment falls, expected to rise next semester

Spring enrollment fell by 5 percent, but the number of students is expected to increase next semester.

Elizabeth Sallie, Writer

There are 5 percent fewer students at Biola this semester than there were in the fall, following the annual trend of decreased enrollment in the second semester, according to the preliminary enrollment report for spring 2012.

Incoming undergraduate students helped balance out the 411 students not continuing at Biola, due to either graduation or withdrawal. The total number of enrolled students is now up to 3,911, only 221 fewer students than last semester’s 4,132.

Top three reasons for withdrawal

Many students cite financial difficulties as the reason for withdrawing. Rounding out the top three reasons for withdrawal are personal or medical reasons, according to Carrie Stockton, director of academic advising and student retention.

Greg Vaughan, vice president for enrollment management, notes that two people with similar financial circumstances may react differently, making it difficult to find patterns.

Amanda Lee, who was enrolled as a sophomore art major, withdrew this semester due to financial difficulties. Lee, who barely returned for the fall semester but received an anonymous donation allowing her to stay, made it through three semesters without financial debt. Though avoiding debt is not her main priority, a variety of circumstances contributed to a large margin between her finances and ability to return to Biola this semester.

“I’ve been here because God has brought me here and he has blessed me with the ability to be here and to stay here,” she said, noting that controlling her time at Biola was not in her power.

The current departure process only provides vague information about students’ reasons for withdrawal, but Stockton says she hopes to see a move toward a system that allows for more in-depth exit interviews, so that Biola can better understand the reasons students leave.

Students plan to return to Biola

Lee, who grew up in Southern California before moving to Oregon in high school, intends to stay in La Mirada and is searching for a job. She hopes to return to Biola in the fall. Though she is not a student, Lee still hopes to participate in the Year of the Arts.

Not all students who withdraw are gone forever — in fact, 70 readmitted students made up 37 percent of this semester’s new students. The amount of traditional students entering in the spring is very low, with only 10 true freshmen entering Biola this semester. By comparison, transfer students comprise 57 percent of the new students, with a total of 107 enrolling for the spring.

Withdrawal rates higher during spring semesters

Historically, the attrition — decrease in enrolled students — is significantly smaller between fall and spring semesters than over the summer. Approximately 86.4 percent of students return over summer break, Stockton said, which is in line with national trends. The university hopes to see a retention rate of 88 percent by fall 2015.

In comparison, over the past five years, the lowest the fall-to-spring retention has reached is 94.1 percent.

Stockton suggested that students, especially freshmen, tend to commit for the year. She guessed that students may leave in the spring due to more extenuating circumstances, like personal or emotional concerns.

Of the students enrolled for the semester, 98 percent are full-time equivalent, meaning they are enrolled in 12 units or more. Ken Gilson, dean of academic records and institutional research, highlights the opportunities that such a high number of full-time students provides.

“When you have a university where a significant percentage of your undergrads are also full time, it just creates great opportunities with communities for development, campus life, etc.,” he said.

Enrollment increase expected

Though this semester’s enrollment was lower than last semester’s, it falls only five students short of the projected number. Vaughan coordinates with the Registrar’s office to determine how many students to expect in order to plan the budget for the next fiscal year.

As administration looks forward to this fall’s enrollment, they expect an increase in enrollment, but nothing huge.

“We are slowing the rate of growth because we understand that we’re nearing the capacity of this campus, unless new facilities are added,” Vaughan said.

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