Enrollment is still low despite bringing back students for in-person instruction

Emilee Fine, Reporter

California Lutheran University is back for in-person instruction after a year of virtual learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite going back to in-person learning, the enrollment at California Lutheran University has declined for Fall 2021.

According to the California Lutheran Census Report, there has been a decrease in new freshmen and transfer students in fall 2021 compared to a pre COVID-19 year like 2019. This fall, there are 490 new freshmen and 140 new transfers as opposed to 647 new freshmen and 226 new transfers in 2019. 

In an in-person interview, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Leanne Neilson said that the enrollment at California Lutheran University is lower than it was two years ago, pre-pandemic. 

“For the traditional undergraduate program we set some goals, and we did not quite reach those goals. We came in lower than we had planned for,” Neilson said.  

Neilson said that the pandemic caused many people to lose their jobs and affected people in a lower socioeconomic status which impacted enrollment. In order to cope with the financial hardships of students’ and their families face, California Lutheran has tried to offer support.

“We have always had very strong scholarships here to try to support students so we will continue with that,” Neilson said. 

In a Zoom interview with Associate Director of Undergraduate Admission Wes Sullivan, he said another factor that contributed to the decline in enrollment is the way the admission counselors had to do their job during the pandemic.

“We are back out on the road now. So we have a team of admission counselors, visiting high schools, going to college fairs when they are being held in person, we are offering admission interviews both in person and virtual,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said that there are some universities that are still offering online school so it makes Cal Lutheran stand out as an on campus experience.

“Students are much happier being in a classroom, able to interact and not staring at a screen all day,” Sullivan said.

In a Zoom interview with Deputy Registrar of Academic Services and Title IX coordinator Angela Naginey, she said that, “admissions is trying to increase new students coming to the institution. Part of enrollment is a combination of the new students coming in and working to keep the students we already have.” 

Naginey said that part of enrollment is retention which enables Cal Lutheran to offer features that make the current students want to stay enrolled. 

“We want to make it so [students] continue to stay, keep returning each year, and working towards obtaining your degree. That’s the ultimate goal,” Naginey said.

Despite the lower number for fall 2021, Sullivan said that the admission team is working aggressively to bring new students to campus so the numbers can get back up quickly.