For the first time, enrollment at Fresno Pacific University is over 4,000 students.

As of September 25, FPU has 4,027 students in traditional undergraduate and graduate programs, including Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary (FPBS). The students attend class on the main campus in Southeast Fresno and regional campuses in North Fresno, Merced, Visalia and Bakersfield.

This increase of 509 students from the 2016-2017 enrollment of 3,520 is the largest one-year rise in more than 20 years. Jon Endicott, vice president for enrollment management and student services, credited the accomplishment to plans several years in the making. “The enrollment market can be volatile, with changing employer needs, outside competition, financial aid variables and the economy,” he said. “Long-term success is best managed with a diverse strategy of programs that address the needs of our different student populations.”

Enrollment is up in degree completion, graduate programs and at the seminary, and down slightly among traditional undergraduates. “Given the different needs of the groups of students we serve and the many kinds of programs we offer, it would be extremely rare that we would see growth in all areas at once,” he said.

Degree completion, which helps adults with some college credit balance work and family responsibilities with achieving their goal of finishing a bachelor’s degree, is FPU’s fastest-growing area, with 1,676 students, up from 1,281 at this time last year. These students can enroll and start taking classes every six weeks. “We have been working with community colleges to promote transfer pathways and increased the number of enrollment events. We’ve added a computer information systems major to the DC portfolio, which is being taught at Bitwise Stadium in downtown Fresno,” Endicott said.

Graduate programs grew to 1,298 students from 1,157 in the fall of 2016. FPBS is serving 170 students, 22 more than one year ago. “We’ve seen significant growth in our Master of Science in Nursing and our education programs,” he said.

There are 1,053 traditional undergraduate students enrolled, down from 1,082 a year ago. Competition for these 18-22-year-old students is tight, as they decide between a four-year college or university and community college. “We are continuing to diversify offerings with our newest major, software engineering, and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree is in development,” Endicott said.

As students from different ages and places in life consider a bachelor’s or master’s degree, each population requires its own recruitment strategy. “To get the word out to traditional undergraduates, we buy names from the PSAT, SAT and ACT testing services. We also visit high schools, college fairs and community colleges. We send out communications and host events,” he said. “For adults, the vast majority of leads are generated through digital marketing and targeted outreach.”

No matter the population or program, most FPU students are the first in their families to earn a university degree, and many are of modest means. “Each of our students has access to various federal (Pell grants and loans), state (Cal Grant) and outside aid sources,” Endicott said. Traditional undergraduate and seminary students also benefit from about $14 million in academic, performance and need-based grants and scholarships offered by the university. “We are very aware of the importance of making a high-quality education accessible to students who have worked so hard to achieve,” he added.

FPU has been honored in this effort by both U.S. News & World Report and Washington Monthly, which have included the university in this year’s “Best Value” and “Best Bang for the Buck” lists.