Christian university reports record enrollment, up 10% since last spring

A sculpture of large praying hands sits at the entrance of Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma in summer 2017.
A sculpture of large praying hands sits at the entrance of Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma in summer 2017. | Mara3229/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has reported a record enrollment for the spring semester, marking the 15th consecutive year of enrollment growth for the university.

In a statement, ORU President Dr. William M. Wilson expressed his enthusiasm for the university's continued growth. The school reported a total of 5,147 students registered for the spring semester, surpassing the 5,000-student mark for the first time in its spring enrollment. 

Regarded as one of the most prominent Pentecostal higher education institutions in the United States, ORU was founded in 1963 by Charismatic televangelist Oral Roberts. 

"ORU is in a remarkable season, and above all, we are grateful," Wilson said in a statement.

"The excellence of our world-class faculty and the diligent service our staff provides continues to appeal to parents and students. ORU's unique value-centric culture provides students with a learning environment that prepares them to lead anywhere in the world. With ORU's unprecedented enrollment growth, we are honored that students and parents continue to trust ORU for their academic journey and career preparation."

The university attributes this milestone to its reputation for academic excellence and a Spirit-empowered approach to education.

According to a press statement shared with The Christian Post, ORU's enrollment grew by 10.5% compared to spring 2023. It reports a retention rate of 93% and a 10.6% increase in graduate program enrollment. 

ORU's spring enrollment consists of 13.5% African Americans, 14.3%% Hispanics and 18.6% international students, according to the university. 

Families "want a university that prioritizes values, and the ORU distinctive is attractive," Williams said. "ORU is committed to our bold vision, and this generation wants more than a degree; they want to change the world."

Over the last four years, ORU has had enrollees from all 50 states in the U.S. and 151 countries. The top five represented states are Oklahoma, Texas, Florida, Louisiana, and California. The top five foreign countries represented in ORU's student body are India, Nigeria, Brazil, Honduras and Columbia.

ORU's achievement comes at a time when the higher education sector, particularly Christian colleges, faces challenges such as closures, mergers and declining enrollments due to various factors, including the pandemic, high costs and a decreasing number of high school graduates.

In May 2023, Higher Ed Dive published a report on the closure or merging of dozens of colleges throughout the country, 18 of which were Christian colleges.

Amanda Staggenborg, chief communications officer at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, a Christian higher education advocacy association with more than 185 member institutions, noticed that the trend impacted colleges across the board.

Staggenborg told The Christian Post that both secular and religious institutions had experienced an enrollment decline. She cited multiple reasons for the decline, including a drop in birth rates leading to a decreasing number of students graduating high school and fewer high school graduates seeking higher education.

Many Christian universities didn't begin to see a decline in enrollment until 2016, six years after secular public universities started experiencing a drop in students, Staggenborg noted. 

Staggenborg cited a report by the National Center for Education Statistics, finding total undergraduate enrollment at undergraduate institutions had decreased by 9% between 2009 and 2020.

In contrast, some Christian colleges have experienced continued growth during the pandemic.

Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, continues to report record enrollment numbers, as it boasts more than 135,000 students through its residential and online programs in 2022. 

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