Evangel bucks national trend, reports increase in freshmen, transfers

At a time when many institutions of higher education, public and private, are facing enrollment difficulties, Evangel University is growing.

The Springfield-based campus experienced an increase in undergraduate enrollment this fall — 16 percent — due to an increase in freshmen and transfer students.

“It’s exciting growth. A rising tide lifts all boats, and I think that’s what’s happening,” said Mike Rakes, entering his second year as Evangel president. “In any field, there is only growth.”

Rakes, a longtime pastor with experience in higher education, took the job a year ago and laid out a plan for growth. It started with catering to students who were already on campus, or learning remotely.

“We said we wanted to elevate the student experience, and so all of our teams — every team in the university — focused on doing just that,” he said.

There were minor changes, such as improved customer service or waiting times. Others were large, such as building the Valor basketball courts, adding campus amenities, and erecting residence halls and a cafeteria.

Mike Rakes, president of Evangel University, said the campus improvements were helpful in retaining current students and attracting new ones.

“Every residence hall has new carpet and the lobbies have 75-inch TVs…so the kids are riding high right now. They’re excited, but that was the strategy,” Rakes said. “If we can elevate the fun and joy they have outside of the classroom, we thought that would increase retention, which it did.”

Evangel added new club sports and service learning options with community partners like Convoy of Hope.

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