BVU Enrollment Grows for Third Straight Year

Friday, September 17, 2021

For the third consecutive year, Buena Vista University experienced enrollment growth fueled in part by new programming and record-setting graduate school participation.

BVU’s Fall 2021 enrollment totals 1,959 students—up from 1,863 one year ago—an increase of five percent over the past year and eight percent since 2018. Enrollment on the Storm Lake campus grew from 733 in 2020 to 777 this fall, a six-percent climb.

The number of new students in Storm Lake comes to 267, an increase beyond 253 new students who enrolled in 2020. Some 237 full-time freshmen represent the bulk of the incoming class, a cohort whose average high school grade-point average was 3.49.

While a gain of six students amounted to an enrollment of 729 in BVU’s competitive online/hybrid programs, BVU’s graduate school enrollment surged to 453 students, a record for the third consecutive year, resulting in an increase of 11 percent from 2020, and 34 percent since 2019.

“Showing gains in enrollment for the third straight year is a testament to our new programs and the wonderful work our faculty and staff continue to do in reaching, connecting, and retaining students, rewarding them with rich academic and co-curricular experiences that see graduates moving on to success beyond BVU,” says President Brian Lenzmeier.

More than 96 percent of BVU’s Class of 2020 is employed or enrolled in a graduate-level program of their choosing, the latest graduating class for which statistics are available.

Recent initiatives on campus ranging from BVU’s Center for Criminal Justice Studies to the Institute for Agriculture to esports have resonated with current and incoming students.

BVU opened a state-of-the-art criminology lab within the Center for Criminal Justice Studies two years ago, a development that helped attract 20 new students to the program in 2020 and an additional 18 new students this fall. All told, there are more than 50 BVU students majoring in criminology and criminal justice studies—working in a campus lab also utilized by area and local law enforcement.

“The Center for Criminal Justice Studies has filled a niche in programming for future law enforcement personnel in rural Iowa, as well as those working in related fields,” Lenzmeier adds. “The new lab is a shining example of how our benefactors’ gifts have enabled our faculty to erect a site that impacts enrollment while directly benefitting the community by providing an additional training site for the dedicated professionals who protect and serve us.”

Thirty-nine students are now involved in four majors and related program tracks in BVU’s Institute for Agriculture, founded in 2018. The addition of BVU’s Agricultural Experiment Station immediately north of Storm Lake has allowed professors to showcase concepts taught in subjects such as agronomy, animal science, and ag business on a working farm.

BVU’s rodeo and livestock show teams welcomed 13 new participants this fall. Both organizations, in their relative infancy, operate within the Institute for Agriculture.

Esports, a co-curricular activity that ties into academic pursuits such as animation and computer science, has seen participation grow to more than 60 students in its second year of existence. Seventeen freshmen noted BVU’s esports team, which hosts practices and competitions in a new Esports Arena within Siebens Forum, was one key reason they selected BVU.

A practice utilized by BVU’s Admissions allowed prospective students throughout the pandemic to “visit and tour campus virtually,” a development that helped introduce BVU to an even broader range of new students. Some 477 virtual visits to BVU were complemented with 560 in-person visits in the past year, representing the vast majority of 1,101 campus visits in the past year, according to Conner Ellinghuysen, BVU Director of Admissions.

Graduate school enrollment, which totaled 90 students one decade ago, now boasts 453 students. In the past five years alone, the program has grown by 154 percent.

“Our master’s degrees in education grew by 21 percent this year, a reflection of BVU’s affordability and the outstanding work Dr. Lucas DeWitt, Program Director for Master of Education - Teacher Leadership, Curriculum, and Instruction, has done in fortifying a curriculum that has teachers across the U.S. sharing with colleagues, encouraging them to enroll,” says Jean Bral, Vice President for Extended University Programs. “Our delivery methods through Zoom and other online forums have made it possible for our online undergraduate and graduate students to remain employed full-time as they complete their degree.”

BVU on Monday was recognized by the prestigious U.S. News & World Report Best Values Schools report as the University rated No. 6 among 71 institutions in its Best Value Among Regional Universities in the Midwest category. The rating takes into account BVU’s academic quality as well as the net cost for attendance for students receiving the average level of need-based financial aid. BVU was rated 21 spots ahead of any other Iowa institution.

“The U.S. News & World Report rating helps illustrate why more and more students are choosing BVU,” Lenzmeier concludes. “As a University, we work tirelessly to meet students’ needs while readying all of them for success in their communities, families, and careers beyond BVU.”