QUINCY -- Quincy University President Robert Gervasi said fall enrollment numbers are a good indication the school is doing "something good" for students.
QU has its largest freshman class in more than two decades and a larger full-time undergraduate enrollment.
The university announced Tuesday that it welcomed 287 freshmen to campus this August, a 3 percent increase over last year's freshmen enrollment of 278.
"The size of this class sends the signal that more and more people are coming to appreciate the value of what we do and are wanting to be part of it," Gervasi said.
At the same time, there's no question the university continues to face challenges in finances, regulation and from the state still mired in a budget impasse.
"We were very pleased at the number of freshmen who enrolled, but I can only wonder how much better could we have done if there was more predictability and support to higher education at the state level," Gervasi said. "The lack of commitment to student assistance in MAP (Monetary Award Program) grants just makes the whole process very uncertain for our students."
QU provides tuition assistance to students on its own and through the MAP grants, but with that program again in limbo, "it keeps a lot of students in limbo," Gervasi said. "We're doing everything we can to keep those students, to make sure they have not only a good experience but don't get discouraged by the financial challenges."
In March, the university announced plans to trim $1.75 million from its $25 million budget for this school year and begin major academic and administrative restructuring in response to the state budget stalemate.
Key items -- not filling five open full-time positions and eliminating two others, reorganizing into originally three, and now four, academic schools and boosting revenues by offering more online courses -- were done or are in process. Gervasi said some of those moves were more effective than others and the university will continue to examine its operations.
"We constantly want to innovate, become more efficient and more effective, which doesn't necessarily mean cuts," Gervasi said. "The most important thing is not to sacrifice student experience but to enhance it, and if we can enhance student experience with less overhead and less time, that's one thing we want to look at."
QU enrolled 88 transfer students along with 669 returning full-time undergraduate students for a total full-time undergraduate population of 1,044, compared with 1,023 last year. Overall enrollment, including part-time undergraduate and graduate program students, stands at 1,171.
"New student enrollment matches expectations closely," QU Vice President for Student Enrollment and Engagement Soumitra Ghosh said. "QU is fortunate to meet the freshman enrollment goal, especially in a challenging higher education environment where most schools continue to struggle to meet their freshman goal this year."
Ghosh said this year's freshman class is unique because it brings more diversity to campus.
The freshman class is more geographically, ethnically and racially diverse compared to last year, with 11 percent more students of color and 5 percent more out-of-state students.
"Our student search process for this year was more targeted to enhance out-of-state recruitment, leading to greater geographic diversity," Ghosh said. "QU's reputation of academic support and successful student outcomes, especially among first generation and minority students continue to attract a diverse student population."
Incoming students are assigned to a designated success coach, one of three staff members whose sole purpose is to interact with freshmen and students who don't have a major to help guide them through the college experience.
The program, launched last year, provides help with class registration, choosing majors, tutoring and study skills. The coaches answer questions and help students understand more about their academics, the university and the Quincy community.