Dakota Wesleyan University continues to flourish despite uncertain times

During a year where many would say that odds are stacked against higher education, specifically small colleges and universities, Dakota Wesleyan University continues to show signs of positive momentum heading into the 2020-21 academic year.

DWU’s enrollment numbers for 2020-21 display upward trends in all major categories.

Total headcount stands at 948 – up from 873 in 2019, and one shy of the enrollment record of 949 set in 2018.

Three hundred eighteen incoming students joined the DWU community this year across all programs, up from 285 in 2019. Two hundred twenty-three incoming freshmen and transfer students arrived at DWU this fall – up from 209 in 2019.

“The perseverance and adaptability of our admissions department, athletic coaches, directors, student life staff – and really our entire campus community – ultimately attributed to such a positive incoming class,” said Vice President of Admissions and Marketing, Fredel Thomas. “Our focus has always been, and always will be on giving students an opportunity to further their education in a place that recognizes their individual strengths and goals, and that didn’t change this year.”

Forty-three pastors and ministry leaders will form the third and fourth cohorts for the Nonprofit Church Leadership graduate program for 2020-21, spanning across six states – including a southern cohort of members from Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Missouri. This is up from 21 members in the second cohort this past spring. In addition to expanding across geography, the NPCL program has also added another denomination and two parachurch professionals. The NPCL program first launched in the summer of 2018.

On a national scale, DWU has also been ranked as a 2021 Best Regional College-Midwest and a 2021 Best Value School by U.S. News & World Report. This is the eighth time DWU has been named a Best Regional College and the fourth time it has been named a Best Value School by U.S. News & World Report. DWU went from No. 26 to No. 23 as a Best Regional College-Midwest. DWU has also been ranked No. 4 in Best Undergraduate Teaching by U.S. News & World Report – up from No. 9 in 2019 and the second, consecutive top ten ranking for DWU in this category. Furthermore, DWU was also ranked in the top 50 in Top Performers on Social Mobility by U.S. News & World Report for its success in advancing social mobility by enrolling and graduating large proportions of disadvantaged students who were awarded Pell Grants – the vast majority of these federal grants are awarded to students whose adjusted gross family incomes are under $50,000.

“These numbers really are a testament to the months of preparation contributed by multiple taskforces to get this semester off the ground successfully, while preparing an environment that is working to safeguard the health and well-being of our students, faculty and staff. Students are grateful for the opportunity to be back in the learning environment and participating in co-curricular activities,” said DWU President, Amy Novak. “The growth in enrollment over the last year reflects DWU’s continued momentum in the marketplace. Despite the multitude of challenges this year, to be recognized by U.S. News & World Report once again as a Best Regional College and Best Value School, along with Best Undergraduate Teaching, only enhances the long, successful tradition we have established of providing students with an innovative education, equipping students for the knowledge-era with the relevant skills, leadership attributes, ethical focus and applied learning experiences that truly prepare them for today’s workplace and leadership in our communities and our world.”

During a time of uncertainty, seemingly negative world trends and unforeseen circumstances, DWU continues to believe that the best investment it can make is in the education of its future leaders. DWU’s growth confirms its position as a leader in higher education across the Great Plains – a staple that does not show any indication of fading in the near future.