March 26, 2024 | Matt Kucinski

Hundreds of students gather around a green space in the middle of Calvin University's campus.
In 2023, Calvin University's total enrollment increased for the first time in more than a decade.

In March 2024, S&P performed a credit review of Calvin University’s financial position and reaffirmed its A- rating with a stable outlook. The rating serves as an independent forward-looking assessment of an institution’s creditworthiness and was issued as a follow-up to the initial credit rating issued on Calvin’s 2021 refinancing transaction where a series of 2021 tax-free bonds were issued refunding series 2016 and 2018 bonds.

“In making this evaluation, S&P is looking at our balance sheet, the plan we have in place, and factoring in the confidence they have in our leadership to deliver on that plan,” said Dirk Pruis, chief financial officer at Calvin University.

Creating and executing a plan

In 2021, when Calvin received its initial A- financial assessment from S&P, the university was coming off a few years of declining enrollment. But university leaders had a clear plan in place to turn that trend around and defy the demographic headwinds facing higher ed institutions.

“In 2021, S&P saw our strong financial position and the solid plan in place. In 2024, they are seeing the results of this plan,” said Pruis.

In 2023, Calvin had a strong incoming class and its total enrollment increased for the first time in more than a decade.

Calvin in demand

“We have had more enrollment interest than ever before. While many schools are contracting their footprint, Calvin is expanding ours,” said Lauren Jensen, vice president for enrollment strategy. “Calvin is in demand, both locally and globally, both in historical markets and in new markets.”

Jensen and her team have spent the past 3-5 years developing new markets, improving recruitment strategies, engaging more prospective students and families, and have worked to better communicate the Calvin story. The result as of March 2024 is Calvin seeing major growth in applicants, admits, and deposits compared to this time last year, both among undergraduate and graduate, traditional and non-traditional students.

In fact, on Friday, March 21, the university hosted its first admitted student day of the year, attracting its largest visit group in recent memory. (Note: Next Admitted Student Day is April 5.)

“When prospective students meet with current students, faculty, and staff and they see the campus come alive, they fall in love with the place and the people,” said Jensen. “When they come here as students, they fall in love with the mission and start to discover how their God-given gifts and passions can be used to be Christ’s agents of renewal in the world.”

Creating momentum, uncompromising on mission

And with the momentum happening at Calvin, including multiple building projects nearing completion that are aimed at improving the student experience, the expansion of undergraduate and graduate-level programming, and the addition of new athletic offerings, university leaders anticipate that the demand for a Calvin education isn’t going away.

And neither is its laser-focus on its mission.

“Calvin hasn’t grown by giving up who it is, it has grown by leading with its hallmarks of deep Christian conviction and academic excellence, and by telling that story better,” said Jensen. “We are not attracting students by trying to be everything to everyone. We are saying ‘this is who we are and there’s a place for you here.’”

Record-Setting Support

In addition to Calvin’s strong enrollment growth, the university has also seen sustained fundraising success.

Over the past five years, during Greg Elzinga (now interim president) and Ken Erffmeyer’s leadership of the advancement division, Calvin has achieved four of the university’s five highest fundraising years.

“Our supporters are extremely invested in the mission and vision of Calvin University,” said Erffmeyer, interim vice president for advancement. “I’m deeply grateful for their support and for the impact they are having on our students, our faculty, and the future of the institution. Our team has worked hard to honor their philanthropic spirit by matching people’s passions with both the immediate and forthcoming needs of the university.”

The university has also seen ongoing success with its annual fund, which has surpassed $3.2 million each of the past four fiscal years and is tracking toward that goal again in 2024.

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