By Paula Schlueter Ross
With a total of 23,318 students enrolled in graduate and undergraduate classes this fall, the Synod’s 10 Concordia University System schools nationwide have set — for the seventh consecutive year — another enrollment record.
This fall’s record enrollment represents an increase of 1,479 students, or 6.8 percent, according to figures compiled by the Synod’s Board for University Education (BUE).
Like previous years, the jump is due primarily to an increase in the number of graduate students — from 9,035 last fall to 10,180 this year, an increase of 1,145 students, or 13 percent.
The number of undergraduates also grew in the past year — from 12,804 to 13,138, an increase of 334 students, or 3 percent.
Dr. Kurt Krueger, executive director of the BUE and president of the Concordia University System (CUS), credits the schools’ “excellent academic programs and Christ-centered education” for drawing more and more students each year — especially teachers seeking graduate degrees.
Even though they have “an incredible number of choices” of graduate programs in metropolitan areas like Chicago, thousands of teachers are choosing Concordia, River Forest, and other LCMS universities, he says, which “says a lot about the quality of the programs.”
The CUS schools with the largest graduate enrollments are Concordia University Chicago, River Forest, Ill., with 3,032 students; Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, with 2,763; Concordia University Texas, Austin, with 1,088; and Concordia University, Irvine, Calif., with 1,078.
Those with the largest undergraduate enrollments are Concordia, Mequon, with 3,786 students; Concordia University, St. Paul, Minn., with 1,691; and Concordia, Irvine, with 1,375.
“Particularly gratifying” among this fall’s undergraduate enrollments, Krueger says, is the 5 percent enrollment increase at Concordia College in Selma, Ala., the country’s only historically Black Lutheran college. After several years of falling enrollments, the college gained 28 students.
“This summer the college used $1.8 million allocated from the BUE Risk Endowment Fund to upgrade campus facilities, bolster admission efforts, and improve academic and student life programs,” Krueger explained. “As a result of these efforts, enrollment increased from 551 in 2007 to 579 this year.”
On-campus student housing there is now “at capacity,” according to Krueger, “and many students are being housed in nearby apartments.”
But, even as enrollments rise at CUS schools, the number of students studying for church careers continues to decline, just as it has every year since 2002.
Just over 2,000 students are currently studying for careers in church work, a drop of about 200 students from last year, notes Krueger. And, even though the decline “mirrors the decrease in the number of LCMS youth across the Synod,” Krueger is concerned because “the need for professionally trained church workers to serve in our congregations and schools is great.”
As a result, he says, “recruitment of church work students through the individual efforts of the 10 Concordias and the What a Way project continues to be a high priority for the Concordia University System.” Especially needed, he said, are directors of Christian education (DCEs), church musicians, and elementary school teachers.
This year’s 2,034 church-work students include 1,210 teachers (down 84), 315 DCEs (down 41), 281 pre-seminary (down 45), 121 lay ministry (down 31), 42 directors of family life ministry (up 7), 26 deaconesses (up 5), 22 directors of parish music (down 11), and 17 directors of Christian outreach (down 3).
Three CUS schools saw modest increases in the number of church-work students: Concordia, Irvine, went from 155 to 162, an increase of seven students or 4 percent; Concordia, Mequon, reported 638, an increase of 4 students or 1 percent; and Concordia, Selma, has two students, an increase of one or 1 percent.
CUS tuition ranges from a high of $24,900 per year at Concordia, St. Paul, to a low of $6,264 at Concordia, Selma. The average CUS tuition is about $3,000 less than the national average for four-year private institutions, according to Krueger.
“Generous” scholarship help is available at CUS schools, he added, especially for church-work students, with the tuition of the average CUS student discounted by some 30 to 40 percent.
This fall’s enrollments — which include both undergraduate and graduate students — at individual CUS schools are as follows:
Total enrollment in all programs at the Synod’s two seminaries combined is down –from 1,115 last fall to 1,085 this year, a drop of 30 students, or 3 percent.
The total number of residential students enrolled in programs leading to ordination at both seminaries has fallen dramatically — from 752 last fall to 660 this year (a drop of 92 students, or 12 percent).
But, offsetting that figure is the increase in distance-education students, which brings the total decrease down to 15 students, or a 2 percent drop, notes Rev. Glen Thomas, executive director of the Synod’s Board for Pastoral Education.
Still, adds Thomas, “any decrease in seminary enrollment is unwelcome as we look forward to beginning 2,000 new mission sites, revitalizing another 2,000 congregations, and note the aging of our clergy roster.”
The number of pastoral students enrolled in distance-education programs at both seminaries grew from 135 in 2007 to 212 this year, an increase of 77