N’West Iowa Colleges Set Enrollment Records | New
REGIONAL — It’s not graduation time yet, but all three colleges in N’West Iowa have reason to throw mortars in the air in celebration.
Dordt University in Sioux Center, Northwestern College in Orange City and Northwest Iowa Community College in Sheldon each had their highest fall enrollment numbers.
Dordt had 1,858 students at the start of the 2022-23 school year while Northwestern had 1,712 students. These numbers include full-time and part-time students pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Dordt’s enrollment increased by 72 students from last fall’s record of 1,786 students. This is the third year in a row that the university has set a fall enrollment record.
Northwestern’s fall head count, meanwhile, jumped 127 to surpass its fall record of 1,585 last year. The college has set fall enrollment records every year since 2019.
Dordt and Northwestern were among 13 of 33 private, nonprofit four-year colleges and universities in Iowa that experienced fall 2020 enrollment growth of 21, according to the 2021 College Enrollment Report and Iowa universities. This report contains the most recent college enrollment data available in the state.
Enrollment at NCC this fall reached 1,811 students, an increase of 34 students from fall 2021. Its last fall enrollment record was set in 2019 with 1,777 students. NCC was among nine of Iowa’s 15 two-year public colleges that experienced fall enrollment growth from 2020 to 2021, according to the state’s 2021 enrollment report.
That Dordt continues to break enrollment records year after year is a testament not only to the hard work of its faculty and staff, but also to the university’s mission and vision for students.
“The students we serve see a lot of value in it and are excited to be a part of it as well,” said Director of Admissions Greg Van Dyke.
According to Van Dyke, there are three main reasons prospective students choose to enroll at Dordt:
- Christian atmosphere.
- Sense of community.
- Strong field of study.
These outlets not only attract students from in and around N’West Iowa, but from all corners of the country.
“We continue to see high numbers in California, Washington, Canada, even the East Coast has gone up over the last two years,” Van Dyke said.
“Students find us from our traditional places but also from new places. In our freshman class of 444 students, they come from over 220 different high schools.
About 40% of Dordt’s students come from more than 400 miles from Sioux Center, which Van Dyke says makes the university a residential campus.
The 444 freshmen enrolled this fall is also a record for the school, surpassing the previous largest freshman class of 439 students in 1998. Last year, there were 424 freshmen at Dordt.
“It was exciting to see this increase of 20 new freshmen this year. It was a big goal for our admissions team, and we had seven new counselors this year,” Van Dyke said.
Dordt’s full-time undergraduate enrollment has grown from 1,401 last year to 1,460 this year, which Van Dyke says “is a lot of fun to see.” Part of this increase was helped by a strong retention rate of existing students.
“We had a very high retention rate from first to second year. We don’t track sophomore-to-junior and junior-to-senior retention rates, but we’ve also seen a slight increase,” Van Dyke said.
The university’s most popular undergraduate programs include agriculture, business, education, engineering, and nursing.
Van Dyke also credited the success of Dordt’s three online master’s programs—education, public administration, and social work—for driving the school’s overall enrollment growth.
The Master of Social Work launched just two years ago, but he said he has seen “very good growth” in that time.
North West College
Starting a new college year with news of record enrollment numbers is an exciting experience for Tamara Fynaardt, Northwestern’s vice president of enrollment and marketing.
“To start a school year, especially when you’re surrounded by news stories about higher education challenges – especially enrollment issues – it really feels good to start the year off with another enrollment record. “, said Fynaardt. “There is a great energy on campus.
Of Northwestern’s 1,712 students this fall, 1,076 are traditional undergraduates. The number of new students this fall, meanwhile, stands at 321 – 288 freshmen and 33 transfer students.
“It’s not a record, but I want to say it’s a six-year high for us for new students,” Fynaardt said.
The traditional undergraduate figure of 1,076 also exceeds one of the goals set out in the college’s strategic plan for 2018-2023, which is to increase undergraduate residence enrollment to 1,050 students by 2023.
“We’ve still got a year to go, but we’ve just reached it and passed it, so we feel very, very good about it,” Fynaardt said.
As with Dordt, a key factor in Northwestern’s increased enrollment is the success of its graduate and online programs. Fynaardt said about a third of Raiders are graduate and online students.
“We added a master’s degree in physician assistant studies, and they graduated their first students in August. We added a master’s degree in counseling,” she said.
“That’s the part that really grows. Then, on the undergraduate side, we also want to recruit hard, but we are rather stable.
The college retention rate from first to second year was down only slightly – 78.3% – from 82.8% last year.
Other enrollment milestones for Northwestern this year are the recruitment of 26 freshman Hispanic students and the 10-year high of 40 international students who are undergraduate students in residence.
“We want to serve overseas, but Northwestern, like many colleges, most of our students come from a 250-mile radius and the demographics within that radius are changing,” Fynaardt said.
“So we want our on-campus demographics to resemble our surrounding demographics, and that means, in particular, more Hispanic students. We want to be their college, and that may require some changes.
Embracing and celebrating ethnic and cultural diversity is another of Northwestern’s goals in its 2018-2023 strategic plan, with a specific focus being to increase this diversity across the board, administration, faculty, college staff and student populations.
To that end, the college has partnered with local Hispanics to learn what they seek in faith-based higher education and the barriers they may face in their pursuit.
Northwestern’s Bridge Center for Intercultural Development assists the college in its outreach and translation efforts to connect with Hispanics in N’West Iowa. It also mentors and supports students from underrepresented backgrounds.
The jump in NCC enrollment this fall is a 5.6% increase over last year’s enrollment.
The 1,811 students this fall also represent an enrollment spike of about 12% over the past 10 years, according to the college’s director of marketing and communications, Kristin Kollbaum, in a statement.
She said the NCC is pleased with the progress the college has made during this time in attracting new students to the Sheldon School, as it shows that its programs are high quality, affordable and accessible.
NCC also has the highest graduation rate of community colleges in Iowa — about 60% — and ranked fifth in the nation in 2021 for having the best three-year graduation rates among community colleges.