Despite the local and national trends of declining enrollment in higher education, Villa Maria College announced today that it has welcomed its largest class in over 25 years. Exceeding its Fall 2023 enrollment goal by 25%, Villa Maria brought in 80 more new students than last year; a 30% increase over last year’s incoming class. This year’s enrollment increase brings the College’s total overall enrollment up to over 550 students, a 14% increase over last fall and its highest since 2019.
Villa Maria’s enrollment growth primarily consists of new, full-time students despite a declining college-age population and fierce competition. Some facts about Villa Maria’s incoming class include:
- Villa Maria received over 1000 applications for the first time in history.
- First time freshman students are up 40% from last year.
- Transfer student enrollment is up 10%, which includes 18 former Medaille University students.
- The highest concentration of new students is in Animation, Game Design, Psychology, Music Industry, and Interior Design.
- The number includes 18 Say Yes Buffalo Apprenticeship students.
College President, Dr. Matthew Giordano, attributes this growth to the unique value of the Villa Maria College experience, including dynamic academic programs in technology and design, and several key initiatives that have removed major barriers to access, supported student success, and addressed the increasing demands of the current job market.
“It has been among the College’s top priorities to make higher education more accessible and affordable for all students and their families,” said Dr. Giordano. “We were the first college to eliminate the cost of textbooks and supplies for all students. We addressed transportation issues by working with the NFTA to create a bus stop on campus and by partnering with Lyft to give every student access to the ride share at no cost to them. We continue to evolve our Achieve Program for students with learning differences – the only program of its kind in Western New York. If a student is committed to getting a college degree, Villa Maria is committed to helping them do it.”
Returning students have shown their loyalty to the College by registering at the highest rate in recorded history. The College welcomed back just over 86% of eligible returning students. Academic success rates, attendance rates, and persistence rates have all increased over this past year.
Villa Maria College is a proven innovator when it comes to student success and support. “We have built a culture of support that is unrivaled,” continued Dr. Giordano. “Our Student Success Center supports students in meeting their academic goals and our Care Center supports them in working through any personal challenges that may arise. This includes issues like food insecurity, housing instability, and more. We’ve developed robust advising and mental health support systems that allow us to identify problems early on so we can intervene as soon as possible and help our students become more self-aware, independent, and resourceful.”
A significant part of Villa Maria’s growth is due to its academic programs – both degree-granting programs and short-term certificate programs. “Every program was designed to meet the needs of today’s job market, and some boast the most outstanding outcomes in all of Western New York,” said Dr. Ryan Hartnett, the College’s provost. Some of Villa Maria’s top academic programs include:
- Game design (WNY’s only program)
- Graphic design
- Computer Software Development
- Interior Design
- And more
Certificate programs are available in:
- Digital Media Marketing
- Furniture Design
- Live Sound
- Social Media Influencer
- And more
The College also continues to add to its value proposition with the completion of major renovation projects in the Commons and the Library and a new addition to its athletic program – women’s flag football. Villa Maria is the first school on the east coast to introduce women’s flag football at the collegiate level and is currently recruiting for its inaugural team.
With a successful start to the 2023-2034 academic year, College leadership has already turned its attention to the future. “We’re just starting to tap into our potential and scratching the surface of what we can do,” concluded Giordano. “We’re going to have more students, stronger partnerships and relationships with businesses, graduate programs, updated facilities, and more. Our vision is to be a key leader in creating a more prosperous and equitable Buffalo and the hub of the high tech, creative economy in Western New York. When you think film, animation, gaming, design, music…think Villa Maria College.”