WAVERLY — Enrollment is on the rise at Wartburg College after declining for several years.
As of Sept. 19, the 10th day of classes, the private liberal arts college had 1,527 students compared to 1,482 at the same point last year.
“We increased by 45 students, so we’re very happy about that,” said Edith Waldstein, vice president for enrollment management at Wartburg. “We had decreases for a couple years before that.”
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The count at the end of the 10th day of fall classes during prior years was 1,537 in 2015, 1,661 in 2014 and 1,714 in 2013.
“Last year and this year, we increased our incoming class size,” she noted. “But last year, we still experienced a decline in overall enrollment.”
Overall student retention, sometimes called the persistence rate, is 89 percent this fall, reaching the highest point since 2011. The first- to second-year retention rate was 79 percent this year and 80 percent last year.
Wartburg also has a record number of Hispanic and multi-ethnic students this fall. There are a total of 206 American students of color and 121 international students. Those students, from 55 countries, make up 8 percent of the college’s enrollment.
Waldstein said several factors contributed to the downturn in enrollment. Among those were the aftermath of the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009, a decline in the number of students graduating from Iowa high schools, college affordability issues, and the growing prevalence of a belief that a four-year degree is not needed.
“All of these factors combined to make it challenging for us,” she said. “Not just for us, but private colleges in general. Many of us were experiencing enrollment challenges during that period.”