Despite the effects of pandemic-induced wider difficulties in California higher education, Fresno Pacific University continues to serve its students and region in 2021-2022.
Some 90% of FPU’s 3,522 students come from California, a large majority of whom live in the Central Valley, the home of the university’s five campuses: Merced, North Fresno, Visalia, Bakersfield and the main campus in Southeast Fresno, which includes Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary. The university also offers a variety of online programs.
The Valley has a lower percentage of people with baccalaureate or higher degrees than the state or nation as a whole, along with higher rates of poverty and shortages in many professions. “Fresno Pacific offers opportunities to students to improve their lives and all of our communities with an accessible, high-quality education right where they, and we, live,” said Jon Endicott, vice president of enrollment management and student services.
Enrollment for 2021-2022 breaks down to 1,341 graduate students (including the seminary), 1,299 bachelor’s degree completion students and 882 traditional undergraduates. In 2020-2021 there were 4,001 students total: 1,362 graduate, 1,680 degree completion and 959 traditional undergraduates.
The largest part of the 12% overall decrease is the 23% drop in degree completion enrollment. Graduate student numbers are nearly the same with a 2% drop, and the 7% decline in traditional undergraduates is explained by recruiting efforts curtailed by COVID-19. “Face-to-face is not only the best way to teach students, its the best way to recruit them, as well,” Endicott said. “As campus visits and other in-person opportunities continue to pick up, we are confident enrollment will reflect that.
While the pandemic depressed student numbers across the board, bachelor’s degree completion was especially hard hit because the public community colleges that provide most of the program’s students. “Our degree completion program is designed to serve the large number of Valley residents with some college experience, usually through the community college system. These colleges have seen especially large enrollment drops due to COVID,” Endicott said.
Two community colleges in the Fresno area, for example, are Reedley College and Fresno City College. Reedley College enrollment dropped 39.5% for fall 2020 compared to fall 2019, and enrollment at Fresno City College dropped 11% over the same period. (The latest figures available.) The largest higher-education system in the United States by enrollment, the California Community College system enrolls about 2.1 million students at 116 institutions.
FPU continues to work with area community colleges to build pathways that allow students to easily transfer credits, and hold enrollment events at community college campuses so students can register for classes at Fresno Pacific and get help with financial aid and other issues. The university is also part of the Central Valley Higher Education Consortium, a group of public and private colleges and universities working to encourage Valley residents to start and continue their higher education.
“Efforts like these will bear fruit, certainly for FPU but, more importantly, for the people of the Valley this university serves,” Endicott said.