The Rev. Edward Glynn wasn’t the only one to leave Gonzaga University last summer.
More than 220 full- and part-time students also did not return to campus, causing fall enrollment to dip below 4,500 for the first time in at least four years, officials said Tuesday.
At Whitworth College, however, undergraduate enrollment set a record as the private north Spokane school reached its capacity.
Gonzaga, a Jesuit-owned university on the north bank of the Spokane River, reported 4,495 total students as of Sept. 15, the last day students could drop out without a penalty. The enrollment figure included more than 600 law school and doctoral students.
Total enrollment was down 84 students compared with 4,579 in fall 1996. Three years ago, the university had 4,704 students.
With full-time Gonzaga undergraduates paying $15,350 in annual tuition, losing students can be expensive.
Charles Murphy, vice president for finance, said many of the students who did not come back were part-time and contribute far less in tuition than full-time students.
He estimated that Gonzaga lost the equivalent of 30 full-time students, or about $460,000 in tuition.
“As a private school, we’re enrollment driven, and when it drops, it falls directly to bottom line,” Murphy said. “We’ll have to make further hard decisions to balance the budget.”
Murphy doubted that the sudden departure of former president Glynn, who resigned May 16 under pressure from the board of trustees, affected student retention.
But students said it had a huge impact on some students’ decision to return.
“I personally would not be surprised that it caused a lot of that (decline in enrollment),” said Jace Wilde, president of the Gonzaga Student Body Association. “When Father Glynn was forced to resign, it was like losing a friend.”
Gonzaga has laid the foundation for rebuilding, with a larger class of freshmen and other new students. Enrollment of new students rose from 1,207 last year to 1,333 this fall, the university said.
Retention was not a problem for Whitworth, a Presbyterian Church-owned school seven miles north of Gonzaga. It enrolled enough students to fill all but five dormitory beds.
Total enrollment was 2,043 students at Whitworth, up 17 from 2,026 students one year ago. Officials tallied enrollment on Sept. 19.
Although nearly 50 fewer graduate students enrolled, Whitworth’s undergraduate enrollment set a school record of 1,608 full-time students, up from 1,502 last year. Part-timers pushed the total head count to 1,757 this fall.
Whitworth undergraduate tuition is $14,750 per year.
Retention of incoming sophomores rose to 82.5 percent, a record for the school.
“Were really jazzed about that,” said Fred Pfursich, dean of enrollment services.
Pfursich attributed the enrollment gains to a focus on recruiting brighter students and providing a positive experience during the critical freshman year when students typically decide whether to drop out, transfer or stay to pursue a degree.
With Whitworth dormitories nearly full, Pfursich said officials this year will be debating whether to expand the college to make room for more students in the future.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: GU, Whitworth’s enrollment