Despite COVID-19, NSU Florida Welcomes Largest Incoming Class in University’s History

Declining Enrollment is Impacting Higher Ed Nationwide, but Not at NSU Florida

NSU has seen its undergraduate population increase at unprecedented rates for the past five years.

FORT LAUDERDALE/DAVIE, Fla.Nova Southeastern University (NSU) is bucking the national trend of declining undergraduate enrollment and just welcomed its largest incoming class in its history—during COVID-19!

Over the past few years higher education enrollment stats across the nation looked bleak. Add COVID-19 to the mix and it was projected that universities would suffer further negative impacts on the number of students returning to campus this fall. But unlike its counterparts locally and nationally, NSU has seen its undergraduate population increase at unprecedented rates for the past five years with 2,001 new undergraduate students beginning classes just a few weeks ago.

“NSU is on the path to being recognized as a preeminent university and as part of that trajectory we have accomplished our goal of doubling the traditional undergraduate enrollment in just six years. We have done so by leveraging our accelerated degrees and our prestigious graduate and professional programs.” said Brad Williams, Ed.D., vice president of Student Affairs and dean of the College of Undergraduate Studies. “By focusing on these key areas, we have attracted high-achieving students who elevate the campus culture. We believe we will build on this trend for years to come.”

Using a multi-pronged approach to recruit and retain students, NSU saw its freshman enrollment rate increase:

  • 27% in fall 2018
  • 22% in fall 2019
  • 11% in fall 2020

In addition to its enrollment rate rising, the retention rate rose to 80% from 74% in 2014, signifying that students are increasingly involved on campus and feel that their experience at NSU is giving them the edge they need to succeed.

As NSU’s undergraduate population increased, so did the quality of the students arriving on campus. Incoming students carry a 4.04 GPA average and have extensive club leadership experience, athletics participation and are actively engaged in their communities.

Students have indicated that NSU is offering high value and highly desirable programs that make them a force of nature when they leave our classrooms and set their sights on boardrooms. And, when you couple that with new policies and procedures implemented to aid in the safe return of students, faculty and staff to campus in the time of COVID-19, you can see why the university is seeing enrollment go up, when other schools are seeing it go down.

“When COVID hit our nation, I challenged our team to think outside the box, such as putting remote microphones, speakers, cameras, and big touch screens directly in all classrooms, so that our students would have a choice to continue based on their comfort to attend class, whether face to face in the classroom or remotely, taught by same faculty member at the same time. With the added emphasis that all faculty and staff would continue to be assured that they would be able to work safely, all while allowing for maximum student choice. The NSU team responded to my challenge beautifully using innovation and technology and we invested more than $20 million to upgrade classrooms and common areas to provide flexible learning models in a novel way,” said Dr. George Hanbury, NSU’s president and CEO. “Innovative thinking led to our “BlendFlex” learning model, which allows students to choose to take their classes face to face with masks and physical distancing, or remotely, taught by the same professor, with masks and physical distancing, at the same time. I cannot say enough about our faculty and staff who adapted quickly to the new normal—they are the reason our students came back, and I am proud of them.”

In fact, 38% of undergraduate students opted to take courses remotely and fully online, while the remainder are participating in courses interchangeably online or on-ground. Unlike traditional online classes, where students log in at their leisure to get assignments, BlendFlex enables some students to participate physically in the classroom while their classmates join online at the same time. This allows students to feel like part of the class as they are required to “show up” at the time it’s scheduled.

Like many other institutions of higher education across the country, NSU has had some COVID-19 cases recorded among our population, although at a much lower level.

Since starting classes on August 17, the majority of the self-reported cases have been students participating in online-only courses and NSU has only one confirmed residential student case to-date who has fully recovered. The university has strict guidelines in place for self-quarantining if positive, and per the government’s guidelines, do not go home to prevent community spread. The university also works closely with the Broward Department of Health to support vigorous contact tracing. NSU recognizes that it is up against a dynamic virus and the situation can change quickly, and so leadership continues to monitor the situation daily to keep the community as safe as possible.

The university continues to follow all CDC and Department of Health guidelines and has implemented enhanced cleaning measures, signage, physical distancing and face coverings. Thanks to these measures and the BlendFlex model of learning, there has not been community spread on NSU’s campus and no students currently in isolation.

As the landscape of higher education continues to evolve, so, too, must colleges and universities to attract and retain the best and brightest students possible. At NSU, that meant the time had come to differentiate itself from the pack. And the proof is evident—more students than ever are choosing NSU as their university of choice. And these students are among the highest-performing NSU has ever enrolled.


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About Nova Southeastern University (NSU): At NSU, students don’t just get an education, they get the competitive edge they need for real careers, real contributions and real life. A dynamic, private research university, NSU is providing high-quality educational and research programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree levels. Established in 1964, the university includes 15 colleges, the 215,000-square-foot Center for Collaborative Research, the private JK-12 grade University School, the world-class NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale, and the Alvin Sherman Library, Research and Information Technology Center, one of Florida’s largest public libraries. NSU students learn at our campuses in Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Miami, Miramar, Orlando, Palm Beach, and Tampa, Florida, as well as San Juan, Puerto Rico, and online globally. With nearly 200,000 alumni across the nation and globe, the reach of the NSU community is worldwide.  Classified as having “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, NSU is one of only 50 universities nationwide to also be awarded Carnegie’s Community Engagement Classification, and is also the largest private institution in the United States that meets the U.S. Department of Education’s criteria as a Hispanic-serving Institution. Please visit for more information.


September 9, 2020

Tasha Yohan