Enrollment of new undergraduates is up at SAU

New students at St. Ambrose University in Davenport leave Christ the King Chapel following the annual convocation earlier this semester.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — St. Ambrose University welcomed 943 new students in fall 2023, with the number of new undergraduate students soaring 15% over fall 2022. Additionally, freshman retention hit a 10-year high at 83%.

That growth follows a university-wide investment in strategic partnerships and a focus on new and innovative methods of learning and teaching, the university said. “At St. Ambrose University, we embrace learners from all walks of life and offer a variety of pathways to higher education,” President Amy Novak said. “This includes a commitment to expanding flexible, remote learning opportunities like our new degree offerings in the Nano Nagle Online School of Nursing at St. Ambrose University.”

Tracy Schuster-Matlock, associate vice president of assessment and institutional research at the university, said overall and graduate enrollment are down slightly, “which matches broader trends in higher education. Our overall enrollment number also includes smaller classes that were admitted in previous years and those take four years to work their way through the system.”


“The 15% increase in new undergraduate student enrollment indicates that we’re heading in the right direction,” she said. “Over the past two years, we’ve invested in a number of new partnerships and program types to support a wider variety of learners than a traditional undergraduate cohort and we’re seeing those partnerships pay off.”

Sarah Rissler, director of student success, said the retention rate is the highest it has been in 10 years. “We are investing in our students,” she said. “We are listening and following through on what we hear.” For example, athletes now have access to peer tutor support in addition to academic support. The university vets all of its volunteers/peer tutors, she said.

“Last fall, the new football coach asked us to provide support in the football study hall. He wanted structure for his athletes,” Rissler said. Volunteers are available for math, writing and study skills — and now biology. Academic success coaches are available for other students as well, such as students on academic probation. Students previously on academic probation can share their personal stories with struggling students. “It’s amazing what our students do,” Rissler said. She noted that even students who earn As and Bs seek help. “We can all benefit from support.”

Other forms of support are helping students communicate effectively with professors and setting up templates for letters, emails and other communication needs. “We offer the opportunity to see possibilities. To see success in a variety of ways. We want everyone to succeed and we are here to help,” Rissler said.

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