Fresno Pacific University seeks big boost in enrollment

The Fresno BeeJune 27, 2014 

fresno pacific graduation

There was an overflow crowd for the 2013 Fresno Pacific University spring commencement ceremonies on the campus quad.

MARK CROSSE — Fresno Bee Staff Photo Buy Photo

Fresno Pacific University wants to increase student enrollment by 1,500 within four years, a plan officials say will help maintain financial stability and expand popular degree programs like nursing and teaching.

About 3,461 students enrolled this past school year, and administrators say they want that number to jump to 5,000 by adding more students to the university's undergraduate, graduate and seminary programs. Officials say most of the growth will be at the school's four regional centers in Merced, Bakersfield, north Fresno and Visalia.

It would be a record for the university, which has only ever topped 3,600 students and was as low as 2,400 during the recession.

"We've kind of plateaued and stayed flat in the last few years," said Jon Endicott, vice president for enrollment and student services. "We haven't really added new programs or been aggressive in terms of other new initiatives."

That's about to change.

The university wants to add about 250 undergraduate students, plus several hundred to its evening undergraduate program for working adults. Endicott said the university will spend more on recruitment efforts in hopes of attracting more applicants.

The push comes at the same time that Fresno State, located just across town, also aims to register more students. A record 22,710 students enrolled there last fall. Officials have said they'll add 400 seats this upcoming school year.

Fresno State officials aren't getting heartburn over Fresno Pacific's plans. Bernie Vinovrski, associate vice president for enrollment, said the universities draw from different crops of applicants.

"We have such a significant price advantage, (with) our cost being so much lower than a private school, so that works to our advantage," he said. Fresno State's biggest competitors are typically other California State University campuses, he added.

Endicott agreed there's no real competition between the two, adding there's "plenty of room for Fresno State to grow and Fresno Pacific to grow." He anticipates most applicants will come from Bakersfield north to Merced.

More and more students are already taking an interest in Fresno Pacific's teacher credential and master's in nursing programs -- two majors Endicott said will likely expand as more students enroll. New majors in social work and health care administration are also gaining popularity, he said.

To accommodate the increase, officials say they'll refurbish older facilities and possibly build new dorms. About 520 students live on campus now, but the university wants to house at least 230 more.

Tearing down university-owned homes near campus to build residence halls is one option, Endicott said. He didn't say where the dorms would be located.

Fixing up campus facilities and building a new fine arts building are also under review.

Higher enrollment would bring more tuition dollars each year, which would help pay for the improvements and the rising cost of health care benefits and utilities. Endicott said dorm fees would help cover construction costs.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6412, hfurfaro@fresnobee.com or @hannahfurfaro on Twitter.

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