Centenary University Posts 17.5% Gain in New Undergraduates for Fall Semester

The University reopens with “Centenary Choice” plan for on campus, online, and HyFlex classes,
as officials also note a significant gain in graduate enrollment.

HACKETTSTOWN, NJ, Sept.29, 2020—As many universities around the nation report declines in
enrollment sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic, Centenary University is reporting significant
increases in new undergraduate and graduate students for the fall semester. The University’s
experience seems to be in line with a trend reported anecdotally at some independent colleges
and universities in New Jersey also reporting enrollment gains.

obert L. Miller, Jr., Ph.D., vice president for enrollment management, said Centenary
has recorded a 17.5 percent increase in new undergraduate students this fall. He attributed the
gains to current student preferences for excellent academic programs offered in small campus
environments that may be more academically agile than larger universities when it comes to
dealing with the coronavirus, allowing for both on campus and virtual learning. Last spring,
when colleges and universities across the nation quickly pivoted to online classes, Centenary
University didn’t lose a single day of instruction.

“At a time when most colleges were expecting, and many have experienced, declines in
new students, Centenary is reporting a strong increase,” said Centenary University President
Bruce Murphy, Ed.D. “I’ve heard the same from a number of presidents of independent colleges
and universities in New Jersey. This is truly a good news story.”

For the fall semester, the University launched a new program called “Centenary Choice,”
which has permitted students to choose whether to attend classes in person, online, or in a
HyFlex format that combines in person and online learning. Newly-installed advanced
technology in classrooms makes the remote experience more like in person instruction, rather
than a Zoom conference.

In terms of total enrollment, Centenary has just four fewer full-time undergraduates
than last year. Dr. Murphy attributed the slight decline to a combination of normal annual
attrition, as well as to the pandemic. “Some returning students have taken a more cautionary
approach to the fall, and that’s perfectly understandable,” he noted. “We’re looking forward to
welcoming them back to Centenary in the future. Our residence halls are currently at 60
percent of capacity and about a third of Centenary students have chosen to study remotely this

To date, Centenary has no reported cases of COVID-19 on campus, but officials and
students are approaching the semester with caution. A key part of the University’s reopening
strategy involved enhanced campus cleaning, as well as training and education on practices to
prevent COVID-19. Kerry Mullins, vice president for student life and dean of students, noted
that the University has also hosted individual move-in appointments for resident students,
outdoor movie nights, virtual scavenger hunts, and Zoom meetings for clubs and organizations.

In addition, while athletic teams are not currently competing, they are still holding team
activities to stay in shape, said Director of Athletics Travis Spencer, who reports that the
Centenary University Cyclones have not lost a single student-athlete this year. In fact, the
Cyclones have gained several athletes who wanted to attend college closer to home, according
to Spencer.

Ultimately, the success of the semester rests on the campus community following safety
protocols established by the University over the summer. “We have been successful so far
because of several factors,” Dr. Murphy explained. “We are small, so we are not reliant on
situations that lead to mass spreading of the virus—large classes, mega-dorms, crowded
football stadiums, and mass transportation. Our location in Warren County has us surrounded
by three (COVID green) New Jersey counties and three (COVID green) Pennsylvania counties.

And we made investments in technology a couple of years ago that facilitated our spring pivot,
giving us confidence to move forward.

“But the greatest contributor to our plan so far has been the people of the Centenary
community—the students who are doing all we’ve asked of them in terms of safety, the faculty
who have gone the extra mile to make distance learning as meaningful as in person while
keeping up their dedication to student success, and the staff who perform the myriad of tasks
that make the University run effectively in support of our students.”

Founded in 1867 by the Newark Conference of the United Methodist Church, Centenary
University’s academic program integrates a solid liberal arts foundation with a strong career
orientation. This mix provides an educational experience that prepares students to succeed in
the increasingly global and interdependent world. The University’s main campus is located in
Hackettstown, N.J., with its equestrian facility in Washington Township. The Centenary
University School of Professional Studies offers degree programs in Parsippany, as well as
online and at corporate sites throughout New Jersey.

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