FORT LAUDERDALE/DAVIE, Fla. – Across the nation, higher education enrollment stats look bleak and are projected to decline even further in the coming years. But when you look at Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU), you see a much different picture. The university has seen its undergraduate population explode at unprecedented rates – in fact, NSU welcomed its largest freshman class during the Fall 2019 academic year.
“The vast majority of colleges and universities around the country are struggling to maintain their enrollments,” said Nathan Meuller, principal at EAB, an education industry research firm. “In that environment, NSU’s enrollment gains have been truly extraordinary.”
NSU is renowned for its graduate programs and, more specifically, its degrees in the Health Professions Division. By leveraging these programs, NSU has more than doubled its incoming undergraduates to 1,900 students compared to just five years ago. So what changed?
Using a multi-pronged approach to recruit and retain students, NSU saw its freshman enrollment rate go up 27% in 2018 and a year-over-year increase of 22% during 2019. In addition to its enrollment rate increasing, the retention rate soared to 81% signifying that students are involved and satisfied with their experience at NSU.
For some schools, casting a wide “recruitment net” is their approach. For NSU, the time came to focus in on and target those students who best fit the university, and vise-versa. This was a major shift, but one that has provided results almost immediately. By leveraging the various preparation programs offered combined with NSU’s coveted location in South Florida, parents and college-bound students started to take notice.
The students NSU seeks are high-performing academically who also have a clear focus on their career goals. Unlike other schools where undergrads take time to “find themselves,” NSU’s students have a clear direction and know the university will provide them an edge that will best prepare them for their career and life. One sign this new targeted approach is working is by looking at the SAT scores of NSU’s new students – it’s nearly 75 points higher than it was just a few years ago. In addition, the average high school GPA of incoming freshmen is above 4.0. These benchmarks are even higher for our students who receive a spot in our selective Dual Admission program where the average GPA is 4.38 and students have an average 1362 SAT score.
So what does a future university freshman experience when they interact with NSU?
First, once a potential NSU freshman is offered a letter of acceptance, they are invited to attend a Shark Preview Weekend. This immersive experience allows students and parents the opportunity to scope out the university, meet other potential classmates and interview for NSU’s selective dual admit programs as well as any scholarships that may be available.
“By offering a dedicated career coach during all four years of college, profession training, access to top graduate programs and a beautiful campus, students and parents see the distinct benefits we offer,” said Brad Williams, Ed.D., vice president of student affairs and dean of the College of Undergraduate Studies. “In leveraging these key areas, we have attracted high quality students who contribute to our culture of creating an environment where students truly gain an edge in their schooling, lives and future careers.”
Other distinguishing programs that attract students and parents include:
NSU’s Dual Admission programs in the Healthcare Professions Division, business, education and law attract the best and brightest students from high schools across the country. These students will have a seat reserved for them in either a graduate or professional program while they earn a bachelor’s degree in as little as three years. This gives students who are laser focused on their goals an edge by finishing school faster and spending less in tuition to do so.
Another aspect that has attracted students to NSU is the Experiential Education and Learning program, which gives students a dedicated career coach all four years of undergrad. Through this program, students gain hands-on, real-world work experience, help with goal setting and career planning, and are provided with a separate transcript for employers to showcase their portfolio of work while earning their degree.
The Fischler Academy is an elite preparation program that offers a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree in education for students who wish to become teacher leaders. Completed in just four years, students receive an annual scholarship of $18,000 per year and have a guaranteed job offer in select school districts upon successful graduation.
NSU’s also recently launched the Huizenga Business Innovation Academy where students can earn a bachelor’s degree in business and an MBA in four years. During the program, students will learn what it takes to create and operate their own business while working on a business plan, all while receiving an $18,000 tuition scholarship. Upon successful graduation, students will receive a $20,000 investment from NSU towards their own business.
Williams said that these steps, coupled with other strategic tactics, helped create the “11 herbs and spices” that has propelled NSU from a local university to a national player.
As the landscape of higher education continues to evolve, so, too, must colleges and universities to attract and retain the best and brightest students possible. At NSU, that meant the time had come to differentiate itself from the pack – no longer did the university accept nearly every student who applied. Rather, a new focus was placed on those high-achieving students who would benefit most from the programs NSU had to offer – students who knew who they were, where they were going and understood NSU could help guide them on their educational journey.
And the proof is evident – more students than ever are choosing NSU as their university of choice. And these students are the highest-performing NSU has enrolled (SAT and GPA continue to rise.)
The days of going away to college, spending a few years trying to “figure it out” are pretty much over. There is too much at stake in today’s society – and realizing they will be competing on a global stage, students know that NSU will provide them the edge they need to not only dominate their careers, but to succeed in life as well.
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About Nova Southeastern University (NSU): At NSU, students don’t just get an education, they get the competitive edge they need for real careers, real contributions and real life. A dynamic, private research university, NSU is providing high-quality educational and research programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree levels. Established in 1964, the university includes 16 colleges, the 215,000-square-foot Center for Collaborative Research, a private JK-12 grade school, the Mailman Segal Center (early childhood education) with specialists in Autism, the world-class NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale, and the Alvin Sherman Library, Research and Information Technology Center, one of Florida’s largest public libraries. NSU students learn at our campuses in Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Miami, Miramar, Orlando, Palm Beach, and Tampa, Florida, as well as San Juan, Puerto Rico, and online globally. Classified as having “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, NSU is one of only 50 universities nationwide to also be awarded Carnegie’s Community Engagement Classification, and is also the largest private institution in the United States that meets the U.S. Department of Education’s criteria as a Hispanic-serving Institution. Please visit www.nova.edu for more information.