CEDAR CITY, Utah - Fall enrollment numbers at Utah colleges and universities show a steady growth among incoming freshman, but Southern Utah University is leading the way.
Numbers released by the Utah System of Higher Education show total enrollment at SUU is 8,881, which is a 16 percent increase over the student totals last year. Enrollment directors say they anticipated a surge in new students, but didn’t know they’d grown 10 percent more than any of the other public Utah institutions.
“We’ve seen an amazing group of students,” said SUU admissions and recruitment executive director Brandon Wright. “Our incoming freshman class is wonderful. The type of caliber that we have is so amazing.”
Wright said they’ve been working extra hard over the past year to bring people to the small campus. The student population has increased 1,225. In addition, the number of students enrolled full-time each semester is up at SUU by almost 13 percent, showing those students are sticking around.
“What’s great is if you look at the total enrollment, not only do we have the largest and best prepared freshman class, they have the highest ACT and the highest GPA in SUU’s history,” said SUU marketing communication director Ellen Treanor.
The enrollment boost coincides with an influx of returning LDS missionaries after LDS Church leaders lowered the age of missionary service in 2012. But Wright says returned missionaries make up only a small portion of their growth. Instead, they credit a major push to focus on recently graduated high school students.
“We work really hard, even into their sophomore year, juniors and seniors,” said Wright. “Letting them know what we have to offer here at SUU, and what type of experience they’re going to have.”
Wright said part of that experience is the intimate, small campus feel. That’s what brought incoming freshman Sam Cress to SUU. She said she decided to enroll after a campus visit.
“It’s very school spirited,” Cress said. “Lots of people. All my professors know my name. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true.”
It’s a charm Treanor said they hope to keep, even as the student population grows.
“We do not want to reduce the student experience in any way whatsoever,” Treanor said. “This campus is starting to get a reputation as the campus that provides for their students in a unique way, that cares for their students in a unique way.”
Administrators first started feeling the bulge in those enrollment numbers earlier this year when there was a struggle to find housing for many of those incoming freshman. Treanor said they say they have taken care of that issue, and are building new housing on campus to accommodate future growth.