What is Thiel College doing right? Enrollment is rising while others are falling

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GREENVILLE, Pa. (WKBN) – Thiel College is bucking the trend when it comes to enrollment for school.

While many universities and colleges are seeing declining enrollment, Thiel is getting more students. The Greenville school had 758 students in the fall of 2020. This year it has 829.

The university credits new programs, scholarship aid to students and a learning environment that helps students as the reasons for their success.

Thiel College enrollment growth rises above national and regional higher education trends.

Thiel College is bucking the trends of recently published reports in western Pa. media citing declining enrollments at colleges and universities regionally and nationally. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported recently that the national enrollment rate for the Fall 2021 semester is down an additional 3.2 percent following a decline of 3.4 percent in the previous academic year.

Thiel College stands in contrast to those numbers. Enrollment increased by 7.5 percent in 2020 and just shy of 10 percent in 2021. Undergraduate enrollment grew about 4 percent each of the last two years.

The reports identify the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic as a primary cause of the current decline. Doug Shapiro, the executive director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, said if the trends continue this enrollment could be the largest enrollment decline in the last 50 years.

Thiel College has added graduate programs for business administration, clinical mental health counseling, communication and leadership, physician assistant studies and speech-language pathology.

The College has also added new undergraduate degrees in data analytics, environmental safety management, exercise science and a new collaborative Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.

Thiel’s nursing degree comes at a time when the importance of healthcare workers has been emphasized during the worldwide pandemic. Even before COVID-19, the need for nurses was apparent. A state audit said Pennsylvania is going to be short 4,000 to 5,000 nurses by 2026.

Thiel College President Susan Traverso said focusing on areas such as health care and providing a path for students to be flexible in their education goals has been key in recruiting students.

“We do keep our eye on the demographics. There is a declining number of 18-year-olds in this region, which is a challenge for all colleges. I’m happy to report that our efforts to offer new undergraduate and graduate programs have led to enrollment increases,” Traverso said. “At Thiel, our emphasis is on letting students shape themselves into the type of leader they want to be.”

 Mr. Rogers and Amelia Earhart have honorary degrees from Thiel.

“We spend a lot of time helping students weave together their undergraduate experience in a very personal level, and we can do that because of our size, honestly,” Traverso said.

Traverso is also excited about the growth in Thiel’s graduate programs, including a new one which starts in August. Thiel has 61 students in graduate programs now and anticipates over 100 for the next school year.

Locally, state universities such as Youngstown State University and Kent State University have seen their enrollment numbers fall. Enrollment was down at Kent State by 1.2% at the main campus and 11.5% at regional campuses. At YSU, enrollment is down over 7%.

YSU’s enrollment is the lowest it has been since becoming a state university in 1967. Cuts to programs and staff have begun at YSU, but university officials say the YSU is on solid ground and will remain that way due to the elimination of programs that had zero or no enrollment.

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