Iowa Wesleyan University Excels in Enrollment During a Challenging Year for Higher Education

Written by Theresa Rose on September 8, 2020

Iowa Wesleyan University (IW) surpassed new student admission goals with a fifth consecutive year of increased overall enrollment and a continued improved student retention rate.

IW’s enrollment has risen by a dramatic 13% this academic year alone, with 729 undergraduate and graduate students making this the school’s largest enrollment since 2011. By comparison, the average yearly increase in student enrollment over the previous five years was 5.5%. In addition, the Graduate and Professional Programs have experienced a 25% enrollment increase from last year. This year, the university also boasts a 63% retention rate for first-year undergraduate students who have returned this fall; this is a significant achievement following many years with retention rates below 50%.

Iowa Wesleyan University also claimed an unprecedented 54% increase over last year in new undergraduate domestic students. These 244 students represent 33 states across the United States, including Puerto Rico.  While the new international student enrollment dropped slightly due to pandemic-related restrictions, more than 65 international students returned from last year.  Overall, this is the university’s largest class of new students since 2009.

IW has been focused on strategically increasing its retention and persistence, most recently with the addition of a Student Success Center through the Office of Academic Success and Inclusive Support. These efforts have paid off.  Over the last five years, the university’s overall persistence has risen by 17%, and the retention of first-year students has improved by 31%.

“Over the past year, the IW community has paid increasing attention to the unique niche of students we serve,” said President Christine Plunkett.  “For most of our students, including many who are the first in their family to attend college, IW becomes a comfortable second home.  I am incredibly proud of the campus-wide effort put forth by our admissions, athletic, and student success staff and our faculty and other staff members to support each student from the moment they enroll at the university.  These remarkable increases in enrollment, retention, and persistence are a testament to those efforts.”

These impressive statistics for Iowa Wesleyan University come during a challenging year for higher education institutions across the country. With the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, many colleges and universities are seeing a decrease in enrollment. One of IW’s strengths has always been its small class sizes and rural campus, explicitly adding to its success during a global pandemic.  The addition of the Tiger Athletics Men’s and Women’s Wrestling Teams and a growing Football roster directly boosted the increased undergraduate enrollment.

Iowa Wesleyan University – As Southeast Iowa’s regional comprehensive university, Iowa Wesleyan University is a transformational learning community whose passion is to educate, empower and inspire students to lead meaningful lives and careers.