Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary enrollment also grew, from 116 in 2011 to 143 in 2012. A total of 3,460 students study at the main FPU campus and at centers in Merced, North Fresno, Visalia and Bakersfield, down from 3,603 in the fall of 2011.
While large graduating classes and strengthened requirements led to decreases in bachelor's degree completion and graduate programs other than the seminary, the admissions staff is optimistic. "Projections for spring are strong," said Jon Endicott, interim vice president for enrollment.
In all, 1,227 traditional undergraduate students are pursuing bachelor's degrees, up from 1,145 at this time last year. Incoming students, freshmen and transfers, increased from 418 in 2011 to 430 in 2012. Retention was up, as well, as 74 percent of first-year and transfer students in 2011 returned this fall, up from 72 percent between 2010 and 2011.
Attracting and keeping students starts with a strong academic program, Endicott said. Surveys show students come to FPU looking for solid classes and strong teaching, and are very satisfied with the ability of the faculty, the content of the courses and the university's commitment to academic excellence. "They know it's very important for them to get high quality academics while they are here, and they are telling us that they are receiving that," Endicott said.
Supporting academic efforts is a comprehensive approach by departments across the university to effectively serve students and their families, including student life, financial aid, academic advising and commuter services. "It's the whole package. We've been strategic in many areas," Endicott said.
Grade-point averages among incoming traditional undergraduates averaged 3.58 in 2012, nearly the same as the 2011 average of 3.59. Average SAT scores were 1010 in 2012 and 1030 in 2011, though SAT averages overall among entering students at FPU have been going up over the last few years. "We were at 1004 in 2010," Endicott said. "We still can look at historical data and see we've been increasing."
Bachelor's degree completion enrollment is 1,212 this fall, down from 1,393 in 2011. Graduate enrollment is 1,021 in 2012 and was 1,065 in 2011. Degree completion and graduate students are usually working adults.
In the graduate programs the number of new students is actually up, with teacher education, special education, MBA and leadership studies leading the growth. "We've graduated several large classes," Endicott said.
New admissions requirements and program changes instituted this past year effected degree completion enrollment. "We're strengthening the quality of our programs and our admissions requirements," he said.
Keeping education accessible
Students and families face great uncertainty as they pursue their higher education goals. "Because of what's going on with the public schools, both the community colleges and the state universities, it's a stressful time for families. With higher unemployment, many families struggle to pay for college, but at the same time recognize the importance of a higher education for their future success," Endicott said.
FPU is working hard to keep a quality Christian higher education affordable. This is in keeping with its long-term commitments to first-generation university students and ethnic diversity. For example, 32 percent of traditional undergraduate students identify themselves as Hispanic and FPU is listed as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. The retention rate among Hispanic traditional undergraduate students is 75 percent.
"We have not had significant tuition increases. We have continued to allocate a large percentage for financial aid. We have space available for new students. We are not turning away the fully qualified student," Endicott said.