Midland University saw a 75 percent jump in the number of freshman and transfer students this fall, a year after changing its name and launching the school's most aggressive recruiting effort in recent history.
The number of incoming freshman and transfer students grew to 366 this fall, compared with 208 in 2010.
With this year's new students, total enrollment at the once-shaky school in Fremont, Neb., has grown from 592 two years ago to more than 900 this school year.
The total includes 321 students who migrated to Midland last year after Dana College in Blair closed. Since then, 80 of the former Dana students have graduated.
Even though the Dana students gave enrollment a major boost last year, Midland President Ben Sasse said new freshmen and transfers were the key to this fall's growth.
It's a sign that a recruiting and advertising campaign that kicked off last year has been a success, Sasse said.
It began with a name and logo change — the school formerly was Midland Lutheran College — after surveys of high schoolers suggested that prospective students believe that a "university'' offers more than a college, including graduate-level programs.
Midland also last year hired more aggressive recruiters, formed new community partnerships and stepped up efforts to attract Omaha high school students who are looking for a smaller campus experience.
"The relationships we've built . are paying dividends as new students and families get acquainted with the small feel and big opportunities Midland offers," Sasse said.
Enrollment at other Omaha-area universities, including Creighton and the University of Nebraska at Omaha, also increased this fall, slightly.
Sasse acknowledged that the beefed-up advertising and recruitment plans resulted from problems in the school's recent past.
In 2006, then-President Steven Titus announced a $1.1 million budget cut — nearly 10 percent of the school's budget — that eliminated several programs, laid off faculty members and sparked student outrage.
Last year the newly hired Sasse announced he was laying off 15 staff members, shrinking some academic departments and consolidating others. Midland wouldn't have been able to meet its payroll without the cost-cutting moves, he said then.
The school has since received large gifts from donors, including former Dana donors, and more tuition money from the influx of new students.
"We are very gratified by the growth we've seen on campus," Sasse said.
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