Southern Utah University enrollment growth
Photo courtesy of Ellen Treanor

The Utah System of Higher Education announced that enrollment at Southern Utah University, located in Cedar City, has exceeded Utah’s others public colleges and universities, reporting 16 percent growth over last year in total headcount. These enrollment figures are more than double the amount of any other public college or university in Utah.

The average enrollment increase over last year at Utah’s public colleges and universities has been reported at 2 percent, a bump which the USHE report partially attributes to the change in age for Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint missionaries.

“After two consecutive years of flat enrollment growth, primarily driven by the missionary age change announced in fall 2012 by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, returning missionaries are finding their way back to campus,” the report states.

After Southern Utah University, Eastern Utah’s Snow College showed the next highest rate of enrollment growth with a 6.75 percent increase this year.

Utah Valley University came in third with 6 percent increase in enrollment, followed by Utah State University at 3.47 percent, and The University of Utah at 0.50 percent.

Dixie State University in St. George showed a slight decrease in enrollment with a student enrollment of -0.78 percent. Weber State University also reported a decrease at -1.18 percent, with Salt Lake Community College showing -2.45 percent.

Ellen Treanor, the executive director of brand strategy for Southern Utah University, said they saw the same stagnant growth over the past two years as other Utah colleges but that they haven’t just been waiting for return missionaries. They used the past few years to increase the university’s quality even more.

“A lot of factors came together to increase our enrollment this year,” Treanor said. “We began a comprehensive strategic enrollment management plan to attract students from in state and out of state. We also increased our focus on international students. The returned missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Saints had some effect on our enrollment but not as much as the northern Utah institutions.”

Southern Utah University supports the State of Utah’s “66 by 2020” initiative. The “66 by 2020” goal—put forward by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, public and higher education officials, members of the business community and the Utah State Legislature—calls for two-thirds of all Utah adults to hold either a technical certification or college degree by the year 2020. It is intended to put the workforce in Utah on firm footing for an expanding  economy.

Treanor said that in line with the initiative, they plan on increasing SUU’s total headcount to 10,000 by 2020.

“It is the goal of the institution to attract the students most ready for collegiate work, provide them with an outstanding experience, and graduate them to participate in the economy in their communities and have happy lives,” Treanor said

In a press release from Southern Utah University, Brandon Wright, the executive director of admissions and recruitment, attributed the enrollment growth to the experience students are already receiving at the university.

“These numbers reflect what myself, my team and the SUU community already knew,” Wright stated. “We know that SUU is the best university experience in the state. We’re proud of the caliber of students that are present in our freshman class and are thrilled with the growth.”

In the press release, Southern Utah University President Scott Wyatt said that they have the “largest and most well prepared students” in the history of the university.

“The team did an extraordinary job of not only appealing to the best and the brightest students, but developing a friction-less process of enrollment,” Wyatt said.

Other factors which Southern Utah University officials attributed to their enrollment growth rate include qualified professors, affordable tuition and small class sizes.