Statement as issued Wednesday by the University of Saint Francis:
Aug. 29, 2012 FORT WAYNE, Ind. – The University of Saint Francis (USF) has announced an enrollment increase that elevates this year’s number of students to the largest in the school’s history.
According to figures given by university President Sister M. Elise Kriss, OSF, at an annual Opening Convocation and Mass Thursday, the university is welcoming 2,366 learners to the student body this fall. The sustained growth from last year’s 2,350 enrollment is largely attributable to generous financial aid packages to direct out of high school students, retention initiatives and the launch of adult learning options offered through a new Virtual Campus.
A new policy to provide financial aid to 100 percent of first-time, full-time undergraduate applicants attracted a higher number of direct out of high school students. This year, the university will award an estimated $13.5 million in institutional aid, according to the Financial Aid Office. In 2011-2012, average tuition after university, state and federal gift aid was $9,814 for full-time undergraduates—a figure competitive with public institutions.
According to Associate Vice President for Enrollment J.P. Spagnolo, state, TRiO and federal grants provided enhanced academic tracking procedures, dedicated support staff, mentors and staff to record data-driven results, allowing more USF students to progress toward graduation. This strategy is one of the most important to students. “Our mission is not to enroll students, but to graduate them,” Spagnolo said.
USF expects enrollment to increase with new affordable and flexible adult learning programs offered online through a newly formed Virtual Campus. The eight-week accelerated course format is designed with the working adult in mind. Two fully online degrees—the 12-month Master of Business Administration and the 12-month Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing—have attracted a total of 35 students in this introductory term.
The university plans to add more accelerated programs to the Virtual Campus to attract adult learners who already have some college credit and are looking to finish a degree. A competitive pricing structure and a process to get credit for prior learning makes the Virtual Campus a competitive option for busy adults balancing work and family obligations.
The university’s reputation for student and instructional excellence is paying off for graduates. Ninety-four percent of 2011 bachelor degree graduates responding to the university’s employment survey reported employment or full-time enrollment in a higher education program within six months of graduation. Co-op job opportunities prepare students to join companies after graduation or enter the workforce prepared to contribute on day one. Academic rigor and the incorporation of Catholic, Franciscan values into courses have led to graduates reported by many employers as their best hires.
During the convocation, President Kriss couched her comments in three concepts: extend, engage and excel. She spoke of the extended educational opportunities with the purchase of the new USF Performing Arts Center in downtown Fort Wayne, the creation of a virtual campus for the expansion of online programs and the growth of programs and increased enrollment at University of Saint Francis Crown Point.
She spoke of engagement with the community through the university’s Feed the Fort food drive, “A Day On, Not a Day Off” community service tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., and Formula for Life, a student-led 5K run/walk that generated over $11,000 for a Haitian orphanage last year.
She also referred to the excellence of the university’s students, the dedication of its faculty and staff and the success of its graduates. Challenges ahead include helping ever-increasing students to progress toward graduation; raising funds for science labs; and developing the downtown campus and programs, she said.
Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend officiated at the mass for the traditional opening of the school year.
The University of Saint Francis, founded in 1890 as a comprehensive university in the Catholic Franciscan tradition, offers more than 60 undergraduate and 14 graduate programs in five schools: The School of Health Sciences, School of Arts and Sciences, Keith Busse School of Business and Entrepreneurial Leadership, School of Professional Studies and School of Creative Arts. More than 2,300 students from a broad geographic region attend USF for its academic excellence. The university has a regional campus in Crown Point, Ind.