Duquesne up in enrollment since pandemic

Peter Boettger | Layout/Multimedia editor | Students walk to Rockwell Hall on campus, passing the Duquesne Ring that graduates of the university wear to celebrate their studies.

Emma Polen | News Editor

Feb. 09, 2023

After Covid, many universities struggled bringing in new students. This year, Duquesne enrollment is seeing positive increases due to new action by the university and revived student interest in higher education.

Joel Bauman, vice president of enrollment at Duquesne, explained the impact the initial years of Covid had on the student population.

In 2018, 1,512 students enrolled at Duquesne. In 2020, that number was down to 1,195. This trend was seen all over Pennsylvania. In one statistic Bauman cited, enrollment was down about 12-20% in Pennsylvania state schools.

To clarify, these enrollment numbers come from the number of total students who apply for Duquesne, including part-time, full-time, commuter, graduate and on-campus students.

Official matriculation last fall put Duquesne at 1,441 newly enrolled students.

In order for Duquesne to see an increase in enrollment again, they made changes in how they had traditionally approached prospective students.

Bauman shared how decreased enrollent motivated the university to invent a new “recruitment-oriented” approach for finding new students.

“We had to be more visible, be more relevant,” Bauman said. This approach had to be more active, he said, in ways that clarified the university’s “identity and reputation.”

Brynn Tripp, freshman nursing major, said why she chose Duquesne coming out of the pandemic—for its big city, small campus qualities.

“My main reason was the nursing program. There’s a lot of good nursing programs, but also…
I liked the city atmosphere, but it’s still a little community,” she said.

Tripp said Duquesne was not her first-choice school, but after weighing all the qualities she valued, including distance from home, tuition and the program offering,

“Duquesne overall seemed like the best,” she said.

Bauman recognized the fact that the college search can be an often overwhelming process.

“There’s a lot of options,” he said.

Duquesne’s new active recruitment aims to “break through the clutter,” he said. For example, the enrollment office knew that around 40% of the population of Pennsylvania was near Philadelphia, which is made up of the largest county in the state, the second being Allegheny County. Duquesne has since sent admission counselors to these areas to actively reach potential students.

In addition, Bauman believes A10 clinics in various areas of the U.S., post-graduate student success stories and grant matching for students from areas of rural Pennsylvania have also provided necessary action for Duquesne to reach its required audience of potential students everywhere.

Opportunities like these are the active changes Duquesne delivers for future generations, said Gabe Welsch, university spokesperson.

Bauman also explained why the university stresses the importance of being welcoming to families when they visit the campus in-person.

“The visit is the most important indicator of [enrollment],” Bauman said, and, in addition, the visit helps families know the full Duquesne experience.

Abby Shoaf, a freshman majoring in psychology, agreed that the main reason she chose Duquesne was the experience she had in-person at one of the potential student events.

“I came for DUQ Day, and I liked how they approached psych as a human science,” Shoaf said.

The moment Shoaf knew she was going to choose Duquesne is actually still clear in her mind.

“I was standing on the Rockwell skywalk,” she said. Before her was a beautiful view of the city, but she still felt safe still on the Duquesne campus.

“I really liked how it felt small but so big,” she said.

Even for graduate students, Duquesne is looking ahead. The program offerings need to be “future oriented”–“aware where future research, healthcare and sciences are going,” Bauman said.

Kaitlyn Poad, a graduate student in corporate communication, considered Duquesne after attending a different university for her undergraduate degree.

“[Duquesne] was the only in-person integrated marketing communications graduate program I could find in the state and wasn’t too far from my hometown,” she said.

In addition to the program offering, Poad said money was a major reason she chose Duquesne.

“My biggest factor in deciding which school I attended came down to what I could afford,” she said. “When I was offered an assistantship with the Honors College and Office of Residence Life I immediately accepted.”

The future of Duquesne’s current graduates now will be different than for those in the future.
Bauman has already observed student interests are changing which has challenged the university to make more opportunities available to meet those new needs.

Duquesne has seen a “trend of students interested in a lot of things,” rather than one specific subject, Bauman said. Similarly, the university has also introduced two new admitted student day events that are not major-specific to welcome all potential students from all fields of study.

While new techniques might aid the increase in enrollment, Bauman also explained how Duquesne’s tradition continues to be an important part of their reputation.

“We have a Catholic identity and a Spiritan mission,” Bauman said.