By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — Despite the challenging economy, enrollment at St. Ambrose University is holding its own, says Jamie Loftus, vice president of enrollment and student services.
He estimates 3,800 students will be enrolled when school begins at the end of August. That figure includes full, part-time, undergraduate and graduate students. Many older students wait until the last minute to enroll, so numbers could increase. Certified enrollment in September 2008 was 3,794 students.
Preliminary estimates show undergraduate student numbers are up while graduate student numbers are down. A combination of economic factors probably contributes to the drop in graduate program figures, he says.
Some businesses that paid a portion of their employees’ education costs in the past are reducing expenses. Other benefits are being cut back as well, so employees may not be able to afford tuition as easily as in previous years.
“Competition is fierce out there, especially for education and business students,” Loftus says. And St. Ambrose is striving to have the competitive edge.
This year the university has added a master of speech and language pathology program, which can accommodate up to 23 students. The program is housed at the Center for Communicative and Social Development in the former convent across from Holy Family Parish in Davenport. “We invested $1.4 million in renovations there,” Loftus says.
The university also has added a new sport to its menu of programs and activities: bowling.
It’s the fastest growing sport in neighboring Illinois, and a lot of recruitment is going on among colleges, Loftus says. That includes St. Ambrose, which attracts a number of students from Illinois. In fact, the top and second-ranked college bowlers in Illinois and the top-ranked bowler in Iowa are enrolled this fall at St. Ambrose, he says. The Ambrose team will field about 30 members. Teams consist of five people each who play in fall and spring.
Another new venture St. Ambrose is exploring is online business education instruction. “We are looking to do a hybrid delivery of some courses on campus, with the majority of those classes online and then close out the semester back on campus.” No formal decisions have been made, Loftus pointed out.
When asked by The Catholic Messenger if St. Ambrose is considering an enrollment cap, he said the university is near capacity in regards to maintaining a low student-to-teacher ratio, providing residential space and building better relations with its neighbors.
“Factors suggest we may need to level off the undergraduate numbers,” he said. Because the majority of graduate and night-class students do not reside on campus, those numbers would not be capped.
“St. Ambrose continues to offer a quality education, hires excellent faculty and is dedicated to its mission to aspire to be a leading Midwestern Catholic university,” Loftus says.