photo: Molly Williams/The Intrepid
By Jonny Walker
ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Earlier this month, a St. Bonaventure University press release announced that the total number of students in the 2020-2021 freshman class once again exceeded five hundred.
This marks the third consecutive year that feat was accomplished.
The release also notes that the university’s overall enrollment—a statistic which includes students from all undergraduate, graduate and online programs—now sits at 2540. That figure has increased roughly 26% over the last five years.
Bernard Valento, SBU’s vice president for enrollment, attributes the increases in overall enrollment to a shift in attitudes across the university towards the enrollment process.
“I think one of the big differences is the culture change at the university,” said Valento, who has held his position since late 2015. “Enrollment is everyone’s responsibility. It’s not just [the responsibility of] admissions or marketing—it’s that of the entire university. We worked collaboratively across all divisions, as a united university, just really to promote and market the university with the attitude that everyone needs to contribute.”
Another driving force behind enrollment trends, according to Valento, is the ongoing refreshment of the university’s academic offerings.
For instance, the School of Health Professions is scheduled to open this spring, and the Jandoli School of Communication has introduced several new majors over the past few years alone.
These moves are a part of a university-wide effort to tailor academic offerings to the unique circumstances of the modern world.
“All of our programs and our curriculums have been updated to really meet today’s students’ and today’s market’s demands,” Valento said.
What may come as a surprise to some, however, is the trend of increasing class sizes continuing amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when colleges and universities across the country are scrambling to navigate the recruitment and admissions processes.
Valento, by contrast, says he has remained confident throughout the entire ordeal despite receiving word last March that he and his team would be working from home for the foreseeable future.
Despite the circumstances, there was little reason for concern.
“By the time we enroll students, it’s like they’re our family,” Valento said. “We get to know these students, we care about them, and we felt like we have a really good relationship with them.”
The other factor that plays into the pandemic’s inability to mitigate enrollment is the university’s commitment to its Franciscan values in everything it does. This principle, according to Valento, especially extends to the admissions process.
“It’s about becoming part of a community that will care for you, work with you, and make a difference in your personal and professional life,” he said. “Pretty much the Franciscan values of community, charism, and appreciating all things.”
That sentiment seems to be echoed by many students across campus. Trey Meyers, an adolescent education major from Cuba, New York, echoed a familiar sentiment among SBU students when asked why he chose the university.
“I came to Bonas because it felt like home,” Meyers said. “Working and visiting here over the summer, I couldn’t help but fall in love.”
Looking to the future, Valento sees no reason why the university would be unable to continue to grow its student population.
In theory, Bonaventure has the capacity for up to 2000 undergraduate students. The number of enrolled undergraduates for this academic year currently sits just above 1800. That thought has the Valento feeling very optimistic.
“It really is an exciting time,” he concluded. “It’s a joy to be overseeing enrollment when we have a quality product and a quality experience that we can deliver to students.”