La Sierra University, Oakwood University and Southern Adventist University Buck Negative Enrollment Trend

Enrollment numbers for Adventist Institutes of higher learning in North America have dropped across the board, down 2.4% overall from last year’s numbers. In contrast to a general downward trend in enrollment this Fall, La Sierra University in Southern California, Oakwood University in Alabama and Southern Adventist University in Tennessee saw their enrollment numbers increase.

Each year the Adventist Enrollment Association compiles enrollment data from the 13 Association of Adventist Colleges and Universities (AACU) Institutions. The report includes information about the total number of students taking undergraduate courses, the total number of students taking graduate courses, and the total number of students all together for each institution.

According to a report from Jodi Wagner, the president of the Adventist Enrollment Association, AACU Institutions have seen a decline of 4.4% from students taking undergraduate courses when compared to number of students in the fall of 2013. However, the number of students taking graduate classes has increased by 2.9%.

Although AACU did not respond to requests for the official 2013 enrollment report, various enrollment reports posted by the respective institutes themselves provide some perspective on how this year’s numbers compare to enrollment numbers from the past few years.

Andrews University has seen a decline in enrollment since their record-setting 2009-2010 census report. In 2009-2010, AU had 3,589 students enrolled, their highest undergraduate enrollment since 1984. This year they have reported 3,418 students a reduction of 171 students (4.7%) from four years ago.

A 2011 report in the Lacombe Globe, noted rapid growth for Canadian University College. The article stated that opening enrollment "increased dramatically in the last three years, from 336 in 2008-2009, to 407 in 2009-2010, 493 in 2010-2011 to about 514" in 2011. In 2014, CUC had only 479 enrolled, according to the Adventist Enrollment Association.

Kettering College has also seen a notable drop in numbers after a record-breaking year in 2012. They reported 981 students in the fall of 2012, the highest enrollment numbers they had seen since the school had opened. However, this year they have over 200 fewer students, with 761 enrolled.

In contrast, La Sierra University has seen growth for the fifth year in a row, reaching their highest enrollment numbers yet. Last year, LSU broke records with 2,478 students enrolled, and this year they grew again with numbers totaling 2,510.

Oakwood University has also seen a jump in enrollment. In the fall of 2013, Oakwood reported 1,903 students enrolled. This year they have reported 1,924 students.

In 2013, Pacific Union College reported their highest enrollment in 24 years with 1,678 students. This year, they have slightly less with 1,674 reported.

Southern Adventist University has seen a slight uptick in enrollment over their Fall 2012 Semester report. In 2012, 3,319 students enrolled. This year they have reported 3,335 students.

Spectrum reported that Southwestern Adventist University had 804 students in 2011. This year, they have four fewer students, with 800 enrolled.

Union College experienced a drop from last year’s 911 enrolled to this year’s 886. However, since 2010 they have seen an overall upward trend of full time equivalency from 2010’s 810.8 FTE's to this year’s 832.9, according to an email message from Ryan Teller in the Office of Public Relations.

The North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists reported that Walla Walla University gained 6% in student enrollment from Fall 2011 to Fall 2012, with 1,940 enrolled. This year, WWU saw its enrollment dip to 1,887 students.

In the Fall of 2011 Spectrum reported that Washington Adventist University had 1,493 students enrolled, which was a significant growth from the 994 students they had in 2008-2009. This year, their numbers dropped to 1,057 students. However, the number of graduate students enrolled at WAU is at a record high, with 181 students enrolled. This is a 67% increase in graduate students over the past five years.

The complete report of Adventist Higher Ed enrollment numbers for Fall 2014 follows.

Title Image: A record number of La Sierra University Students in the new Zapara School of Business.

Rachel Logan is a writing intern for Spectrum.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

I am on the board at Southwestern. Enrollment in the Fall semester of 2014 is up significantly over the same time last year. Your story compares current enrollment to that of three years ago. I supposed you could make the case that just about every Adventist college/university’s enrollment is down if you cherry-pick the year to which you’re comparing the figures.

Out of all of those thousands of students…what is the gospel they learn if they have learned any?

I would challenge any of the executive staff of any of the colleges to reply here with a succinct concept/definition of the gospel in a maximum of 4 sentences.
And I don’t mean the ambiguous, cliché /trite responses , like JN 3;16 or …it is the love of God, or good news of Jesus.

I am gathering from the way the article is written that Rachel Logan couldn’t readily get responses from many of the colleges. For example, she quotes Ryan Teller at Union in the Office of Public Relations. Perhaps, Southwestern wouldn’t respond to her query and she couldn’t find the number online? Maybe she will chime in…


I’m not sure what this all proves, except that the enrollment in some colleges is up and in others it is down. And the perception of “liberal” or “conservative,” doesn’t seem to be a determining factor.

One reason SAU is up is that AUC closed. Many students from New England went south, rather than go to CUC (or whatever it’s called now), which (except for Bostonians, maybe) is in a setting that is too urban for many.

i think it’s great so many of the kids are in adventist schools…the big thing in these schools is the chance to be exposed to adventism, and our focus on the primacy and relevance of the bible and especially egw…while not everyone will be on board with all of this at these schools, there’s a good chance that the students will see it all up close…whatever path they decide to take in life, impressions gained while young can resurface and grow into something really valuable later on…i consider my adventist experience to be the most important thing i own, and i received it partially from my mother, and partially from atlantic union college, pacific union college, and andrews…the work i’ve done since in non-adventist universities is practically meaningless to me…

Ed, Your critique is valid–this story does not compare apples to apples in every instance.

Let’s point out that the story’s methodology was not to cherry pick data to demonstrate negative trends, but rather to take available data and make observations. Carmen is correct that when schools were not forthcoming with data for previous years, the author searched for data that was available.

I have personally reached out to SWAU officials for clarification on the data.

Where is Adventist University of Health Sciences located? I am assuming it is in Florida somewhere.

The larger numbers in health studies is noted, which is likely a trend in many universities as that is the one segment of future employment that will grow.

Enrollment numbers for SDA colleges need to be placed in a larger national context. The Council for Independent Colleges (CIC) reported that only 38% of their colleges met enrollment and net tuition revenue goals in 2014 while 43% met neither and 9% met enrollment but not revenue goals and 10% met revenue but not enrollment goals. This highlights that an institution can have enrollment gains but may have given away so much money in tuition discounts that net revenue can actually decrease. For an institution’s financial well-being, a decrease in enrollment can also be better if the revenues are up due to less money given away to attract students. In addition, the mix of students is important. An increase in dormitory revenue which can be a major revenue source can overcome enrollment decreases. Or if an institution had a very large graduating class to replace, they could actually be in a better position if they just stay even. It’s a lot more complex than just reporting numbers. It should be of concern that it’s hard to get enrollment numbers because in the current focus on transparency in American higher ed, these should be readily available; however, context is important. Numbers by themselves mean nothing without looking at all of the factors, especially net student tuition revenue.


Dick, thanks for that perspective. Very helpful!

Thank you, Jared, for contacting us today (November 20) about our enrollment numbers. Thank you Ed Fry and Dick Osborn for your help in clarifying the discussion.

Our headcount was 807 in 2012, 807 in 2013, and is 800 in 2014. What our board member, Ed Fry, is referring to is our full time equivalency number which is 36 FFTE’s higher than last year. That means our net tuition revenue has significantly increased.

Last year our freshmen class increased by 50 and was our largest freshmen class since 1999. The larger class size continues to hold in 2014 with a freshmen class of 164. Our retention rate is also up by 10% and holding, over previous years.

Darcy Force
Director of Marketing and PR
Southwestern Adventist University


If it wasnt for chronic student indebtedness through public or private student loans, HOW MANY of these students would be attending SDA schools instead of local secular colleges? Or, even attending college at all? And, maybe settling for a technological or trade school program close to home?

Good question, yoyo7th!

How about sharing your own template by providing a 1-4 sentence definition of the Gospel that is supported by and supports the 28 Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists.

This is actually a really good exercise … great request!

1 Like

The good news is that God is trustworthy and can be trusted.

The good news is that the slaughtered Lamb has won the victory over the Dragon.

The good news is that Jesus has provided the remedy to our sinful condition so we can be restored and reconciled to God.

The good news is all who would be happy in heaven and are safe to save will be there.

These are my four sentences that describe the gospel.

1 Like

Why don’t you teach by example?

What is your “succinct concept/definition of the gospel in a maximum of 4 sentences?”

1 Like

Is there a better or more succinct statement of the Gospel than:

“God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that through Him the world might be saved. NO ONE who believes in Him will be condemned.”

1 Like

We should close all of the Universities, except Loma Linda and Florida Health Sciences, and pool of the resources and have one world class North American Division University. Combined, the SDA Universities, including graduate students, do not equal the enrollment of Brigham Young University. Or any single major state university.

Although this story is old, the discussion and concern about enrollment numbers is much alive. I have been working with universities for the past 8 years and the concern is real, big universities are getting bigger (big I mean over 10,000 students) and small universities are getting smaller. Adventist Universities around the world need to be better prepared to compete again the market, in programs as well as in international cooperations.
There is a project I support to list of Adventist universities at and help members take advantage of our network as well as for universities to see the opportunities for coolaboration.