Student Retention Remains Strong Despite Economy
North Park University Enjoys a High Student Retention Rate
CHICAGO, IL (February 13, 2009) - In the face of growing economic crisis, North Park University enjoyed a high student retention rate for the second semester and a growing interest in traditionally strong programs.
The school plans on taking steps to assist students in paying for school through increased financial aid next year.
Citing the timing of the market’s collapse last fall, Mark Olson, North Park’s dean of enrollment, explains that the retention rate is a figure the school is closely watching. The 95 percent of students who returned this year represents a one percent improvement from a year ago.
“Retention is generally understood to be an indicator of student satisfaction,” says Olson. In the current economic climate, it also can be interpreted as confirmation of our view that affordable quality, which is what we offer, is important to students.”
Amid the job squeeze, Olson has noticed strong interest in programs with clear vocational outcomes, such as education and nursing. “I think that the interest in areas of study that have fairly clear or direct pathways into careers are especially attractive because of the employment problems in the economy,” he says. “At the same time, these are strong programs at North Park that have always attracted large numbers of students.”
Olson says the tightening economy so far has not had an adverse affect on applications and admission for next fall. Still, the school has seen some increase in the number of students who are having trouble paying their bills and an increase in students appealing their financial aid awards.
To help financially pinched families and students entering in the fall of 2009, North Park has increased its budget for need-based financial aid.
“We have seen a few students that have chosen us over some other schools where their net costs would have been much higher and student borrowing would have been excessive,” says Olson. “Students are much more cautious about taking on inordinate amounts of debt right now.”
Enrollment last fall was up more than 10 percent in first-year students over the previous year, Olson says. He believes the school’s actions in recent years have the school well positioned for whatever lies ahead.
“There was nothing we could have done that would have placed us in a better position than we’re in right now,” Olson says. He points to the dramatic tuition and financial aid restructuring that placed the school in the news five years ago.
While the school is making allowances for more generous financial aid packages, tuition increases are also planned for the coming year. Tuition, room, and board will increase to $26,440, up from $25,180 this academic year.
Olson emphasizes that the increases are in line with similar institutions and with North Park’s price increases in recent years.
“If you just look at tuition, we are $7,500 below the national average for private colleges and universities, and we’re $2,100 below the average for Christian schools,” says Olson, noting that North Park is also ranked by U.S. News & World Report among America’s best.
“Paying for higher education requires sacrifice and the whole family pulling together,” Olson says. “But we think that the value we offer—very good quality at a fair price, is a great combination.”