Spring enrollment dips at area colleges

Liberty University students walk around University Boulevard on Monday afternoon. Sam O'Keefe/The News & Advance

The increase in residential enrollment that local colleges experienced this fall has lessened this semester, as Liberty University and Lynchburg and Sweet Briar colleges collectively experienced a 6.5 percent decrease in spring enrollment.

The largest semester-to-semester decrease was at Liberty University, where enrollment fell by more than 7 percent. Officials budgeted for and anticipated about a 5 percent decrease in spring enrollment, which is a normal fall to spring decrease for the school.

Residential enrollment refers to students who live on campus.

Lynchburg College saw a decrease of about 3 percent in total enrollment from the fall to spring semester. 

Sweet Briar College saw a decrease of almost 5 percent in semester-over-semester residential enrollment.

Officials with Central Virginia Community College, which does not have residential students, predict it will see a 3 percent decrease in enrollment for this semester.

Any decreases at Randolph College and Virginia University of Lynchburg remain unknown.

Randolph spokeswoman Brenda Edson said the school saw “improvement in our retention from fall to spring this year” but could not provide numbers.

Virginia University of Lynchburg Provost Kathy Franklin said enrollment at the school this semester is 410 but did not provide fall or residential enrollment numbers.

In some cases, the decreases are due to graduations.

Sixty-nine of the 91 students who left Lynchburg College at the end of the first semester graduated.

Undergraduate enrollment at LC is down 4.8 percent from 2,178 to 2,074. Graduate student enrollment is up 2.4 percent, from 535 to 548.

Other reasons for student departures, said Chris Johnson, senior vice president of enrollment management at Liberty University, are financial, personal and academic.

The good news at Liberty University is the fall to spring enrollment decrease that almost all colleges face is lessening at LU, Johnson said.

“We are continuously increasing our spring [enrollment] numbers,” Johnson said. Spring enrollment is higher this year than it has ever been.

Johnson said the decrease makes no financial impact on the college because colleges expect and budget for the drop.

Judy Graves, dean of student services at Central Virginia Community College, said decreases in enrollment always are a concern at the college level, but the 3 percent decrease CVCC is expecting doesn’t cause alarm.

The college is going to look at offering different programs in the fall, similar to the STEM program that might bring enrollment numbers up.

“Our enrollment differs from the other four-year schools in the area because we are offering atypical classes during [the] semester that make our numbers more fluid,” Graves said. The school offers eight-week and certificate programs for example.

Mid-year numbers don’t exactly match three-year trends, either. Total enrollment increased 3 percent at Lynchburg College, 30 percent at Randolph College, and 37 percent at Liberty University between 2010 and 2013, according to a Washington Post survey.

Historically, fall rather than spring enrollment rates are used to indicate college activity.

Liberty University residential enrollment

Spring semester 12,070 (Fall semester 13,019)

Sweet Briar College residential enrollment

Spring semester 590 (Fall semester 620)

Lynchburg College residential enrollment

Spring semester 1,453

(Fall semester 1,579)

Randolph College residential enrollment

(Fall semester 685)

CVCC

Spring semester 4,306* (Fall semester 3,861) *Includes high school students in dual-enrollment program.

VUL

Spring semester 410

Liberty University and Sweet Briar College have 77 percent retention rates for freshmen while Randolph College’s freshman retention rate is 76 percent and Lynchburg College’s is 73 percent, according to U.S. News and World Report.

This story has been modified to accurately reflect residential and total enrollment numbers.

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Contact Amy Trent at (434) 385-5543 or atrent@newsadvance.com.

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