Preliminary enrollment numbers up from last year at St. Ambrose

St. Ambrose student Paige Gulbrandsen of Algonquin, Ill., washes a desk at Sacred Heart Cathedral’s parish center in Davenport in preparation for religious education classes this fall. More than 550 freshmen and new students to St. Ambrose University in Davenport spent Aug. 22 participating in the “Urban Plunge.” The event was part of welcome week at the university in which students provide volunteer service to a variety of organizations, neighborhoods and agencies.

By Anne Marie Amacher

DAVENPORT — Prelim­inary enrollment figures for the school year at St. Ambrose University are looking good. “We are up over last year and we are happy,” said John Cooper, the new vice president of enrollment management.

With classes beginning Aug. 24, preliminary estimates show new student enrollment at 555 freshmen and 215 transfer students. Before school began last year, SAU was estimating 550 freshmen and around 200 transfer students. Overall enrollment is estimated at 3,700 students – both graduate and undergraduate. Last fall’s enrollment was 3,663 undergraduate and graduate students. Official enrollment will be taken on the 20th day of school.

Last year, freshmen enrollment was down about 20 students, “but we’re bouncing back nicely,” Cooper said. The retention rate for freshmen to sophomore year is again around 80 percent. “That’s where we’ve been hovering,” he added. He’d like to boost that retention percentage.


The numbers fluctuate downward from before school starts until the final count because some students choose to attend another college, others choose not to attend college or drop out early in the school year.

This year the university will be using MAP Works to improve student retention and success. “It’s a way to communicate with first-year students on their experiences.” He said the university hopes to learn what students like and do not like earlier and respond to the issues earlier.

MAP is a web-based survey for students and an intervention tool for faculty and staff, Cooper said. “It is aimed at supporting first-year students by listening closely to student experience as it unfolds. Students take two surveys in the fall semester.” The first, a fall transition survey, will launch on Sept. 12 and a follow-up survey will be administered on Oct. 24. 

A new mechanical engineering program is being offered this year. “It’s still in its infancy stages. We still have to go through accreditation, but it’s an exciting addition.” That offering is in addition to the university’s industrial engineering program.

The number of graduate students is on target and may exceed last year’s numbers. Enrollment currently is at 775 students and last year there were 850 students. Cooper said there are several fall programs still accepting student registration and some have a later start date — so there is still time to sign up.

Numbers would be higher, Cooper said, but several graduate programs limit the number of graduate students. “St. Ambrose is enrolling to a capacity that allows it to provide the resources necessary for its students to be successful.  It also must maintain the level of support required by specialized program accreditation bodies. 

“Some of the graduate programs at St. Ambrose must secure extensive outside clinical or field experiences in order to increase class size.  St. Ambrose strives to balance its class size with the perceived level of need in various professional programs.”

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