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As colleges transitioned into the online semester, many expected enrollment numbers to drop significantly. Vice President of Enrollment, Marketing & Communications Lee Wilhite was well aware of the downsides of a fully remote semester but was surprised to see that only 11% of undergraduate students did not return to the university.
COVID-19 and state regulations forced many colleges and universities to prepare for the worst. Closing down campuses, in-person classes and many other aspects of college life led students to reconsider the semester.
“We were watching studies this summer,” Wilhite said. “About mid-July, they had run a national study that said that 40% of incoming freshmen were likely or highly likely to not enroll in college.”
Although Biola had prepared for a larger decrease in enrollment, they found that overall, more people seemed to be taking interest in attending college. The undergraduate body remained nearly the same, dropping only by 5% since last fall with 3,483 enrolled students in total. Wilhite explained that Biola put a lot of effort into financially helping students to continue their education.
“One of the things that we were really pleased with this summer was the fact that we provided some additional scholarship assistance to families,” Wilhite said. “But then we also had donors contribute almost 3 million dollars in what we call the ‘Hope in Crisis’ scholarship fund, and about 2 million of those dollars were given to families who were hit especially hard by COVID.”
In addition to these funds, all traditional undergraduate students also received $2,000 in COVID-19 relief grants. The university hoped to show students that they saw their struggles, Wilhite explained, and scholarships were a way to show they cared for students beyond their presence on campus. This response was only possible due to preparations set in place by the Board of Trustees as they prepared for a 15% decrease in enrollment and over $20 million in cuts.
STUDENT BODY INCREASES
Additionally, the number of graduate students continued to increase, with over 625 incoming students and 2,132 in total. This is the biggest incoming graduate class Biola has seen and Wilhite attributes the increase in students to that and the fact that COVID-19 allowed more people the flexibility to pursue their masters.
Biola’s non-traditional undergraduate student body has also grown significantly, with the number of enrolled students increasing from 161 to 197 this semester. Student-athletes followed the same trend, creating Biola’s largest incoming class of athletes with over 150 incoming students.