Mary Baldwin Breaks Enrollment Records, Continues Trend of Success

September 16, 2020

First-year students attend a workshop during orientation in August.

More students are attending Mary Baldwin University than ever before, as the 179-year-old institution continues an upward trend in enrollment that began in the fall of 2018.

First-year students attend a workshop during orientation in August.

The university’s enrollment success has reversed a general downward swing in undergraduate residential enrollment in previous years. According to the university’s fall 2020 census, or official enrollment count, MBU has 2,080 students attending this fall. This includes undergraduate, graduate, residential, commuter, and online students. In 2019, MBU reported a total enrollment of 2,050. 

“Through hard work, cross-campus collaboration, and with a thoughtful strategy to showcase MBU’s personalized, student-centered approach, we have been able to expand our mission and support many more women and men from all walks of life,” said MBU President Pamela R. Fox. “Our success means more students are creating an affordable pathway to career and personal fulfillment.”

The positive enrollment news comes as recently released college rankings from Washington Monthly and U.S. News & World Report highlight Mary Baldwin’s support for social mobility, and  attest to how MBU encourages students’ potential and paves the way for their professional success. 

One of the most dramatic areas of enrollment growth is in the undergraduate, residential population. In fall of 2017 — when MBU welcomed one of its smallest first-year classes in recent memory — MBU’s historic campus in Staunton recorded only 531 residential students. Today, there are 970 students living and studying at Mary Baldwin, which is in line with the university’s planned, strategic enrollment goal of 1,000 residential students by 2025.

MBU’s success is unusual as compared with many peer institutions, which have seen a steady decline in enrollment over the past few years, and especially with the COVID pandemic in 2020. MBU proved nimble this past spring in shifting its admissions’ events to a digital format. 

“While we sorely missed welcoming hundreds of prospective students and families to campus this spring for those really energizing and fun in-person visits, we translated those events and opportunities to a new and groundbreaking digital format, and found new ways for our faculty and staff to reach out to students and parents in an engaging, virtual format. This enabled us to welcome another impressive group of students to MBU this fall without skipping a beat,” said Matthew Munsey, MBU’s vice president of enrollment management. 

Mary Baldwin’s record of strategic growth to address the needs of its students and society stretches back for decades. It was the first institution in Virginia to offer a degree path for non-traditional age students (now MBU Online) in the late 1970s; established the Program for the Exceptionally Gifted in the mid-1980s and the only all-women corps of cadets in the 1990s; and opened the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences in 2014. In fall 2018, MBU reported an unheard-of 222% increase in first-year residential students, kicking off the trend of successful recruitment that continues to this day. 

University administrators attribute the achievement to a commitment throughout the university to successfully recruit prospective students and support them once they enroll. 

“It’s a team effort,” Munsey said. “Between admissions and marketing, professors and support staff, student engagement and the registrar, it has been a symphony of hard work and smart strategy. Ultimately, we’re happy to see our students and the community benefit from this effort.”