UPDATED: 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.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/article/news/2014/11/19/updated-la-sierra-university-oakwood-university-and-southern-adventist-unive

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!

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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.

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Why don’t you teach by example?

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

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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.”

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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 www.adventistuniversities.com and help members take advantage of our network as well as for universities to see the opportunities for coolaboration.