Enrollment growth, U.S. News honor give FPU reason to celebrate

Enrollment at Fresno Pacific University reached a milestone this fall, as the traditional undergraduate program grew to more than 900 students.

“This is a more than 50 percent increase in the last four years,” said Stephen Varvis, dean of the college. “We are going to celebrate.”

Also worth celebrating is a spot on the best value list in the 2001 U.S. News & World Report college guide. FPU was ranked fifth in the western universities—master’s category. “This recognition honors the hard work and success of faculty and staff all over campus who put our students first,” Varvis said.

In all 905 undergraduate students fill halls and classrooms, up from 821 in the fall of 2000. The graduate school also recorded a strong surge, to 868 this fall from 808 at the same time in 2000. With 165 in the Center for Degree Completion, total enrollment is 1,938, up from 1,705 in September of 2000. College and graduate school figures are based on the 16-day census, which is considered official for the undergraduate college but a “snapshot” for the graduate school and CDC, which have different academic schedules. CDC figures come from the center.

Academic standards remain strong as the average high-school grade-point average among the 201 freshmen was 3.56 and the average SAT score was 1,009. The top 25 percent of the class averaged a 4.08 GPA and a 1,238 SAT score. These figures compare favorably with several University of California campuses, and continue a five-year trend at FPU. At the same time racial and ethnic diversity continues to increase among college students as the percentage of students of color (not including international students) in incoming classes rose from 22 percent to 30 percent.

“This growth, and the growth in all programs, represents a validation of our quality, our mission and our ministry,” said FPU President Harold Haak. “We are grateful for the confidence of students, parents and families willing to entrust us with the crucial task of educating them or their loved ones. This show of support spurs us to new efforts to prepare students academically, professionally and spiritually.”

Expanding enrollment enhances efforts to excel. “This growth isn’t just about raising numbers, its about increasing capability,” Varvis said. “It’s about having the means to provide the best in programs, facilities and faculty support while remaining affordable.”

There are challenges involved. Living, learning and eating space is at a premium and classes are filling faster. Several projects are already in the works to alleviate the situation: construction has begun on AIMS Hall of Science and Mathematics, ground will be broken in October for Steinert Campus Center and a fine arts building is in the planning stages. Faculty and staff will meet soon to refine the planning process and continue to manage the growth. “I look forward to our next phase,” Varvis said.