A wave of freshmen Tuesday strode down the Creighton University mall, the biggest freshman brigade in university history.
Creighton estimates that it has enrolled 1,125 freshmen this school year, breaking the previous Creighton record of 1,068, set in 2015.
Creighton’s overall enrollment is also likely to claim a record with more than 8,500, breaking the record of 8,435 set two years ago.
Although other private schools in the region will struggle to match Creighton’s enrollment success this year, some said they expect excellent years.
For instance, Midland University in Fremont expects to be at or near its record enrollment of 1,394. Concordia University in Seward, Nebraska, has 1,210 full-time undergraduate students, its largest undergraduate enrollment since 1973.
With 318 first-year students, Hastings College has among its top five biggest first-year classes.
And for the third straight year, Nebraska Wesleyan has enrolled more than 400 freshmen, with about 415 students in the first-year class.
The University of Nebraska and state colleges won’t have enrollment statistics for a couple of weeks.
At Creighton, freshmen and first-year students in graduate school and professional disciplines Tuesday walked six blocks from St. John’s Church east to the soccer field, where each touched the Billy Bluejay statue on the beak.
Almost all of the freshmen wore the same design of blue Creighton T-shirt.
They turned north at the soccer stadium and filed into D.J. Sokol Arena. They heard administrators challenge them to make the most of the Creighton experience.
The Rev. Daniel Hendrickson, president of Creighton, encouraged the students to journey inside and outside themselves.
“Dive down, figure out who you are, what you have, how you think and feel, what you know and don’t know,” Hendrickson told the students. Use Creighton’s opportunities to travel, get outside comfort zones, be of service across the nation and world, including the “gritty” places, he said.
Take on the issues of hunger, preservation of natural resources, unemployment and climate change, he said.
“You are the largest class in the history of Creighton University,” Hendrickson said. “But guess what? You’re also the smartest.”
Creighton spokeswoman Cindy Workman said the president based the latter assertion on test scores and grade-point averages.
Freshmen began to move in Friday, and lines of cars with out-of-state license plates waited on 24th Street, which was closed to public traffic along the campus.
The freshmen seemed enthusiastic, some of the parents less so.
“I’m excited for him. A little sad to be saying goodbye,” said mother Virginia Lacke of Libertyville, Illinois. She was dropping off her son, Stephen.
He said he was pumped about attending a university with a Jesuit mission and about watching Creighton play Big East teams.
Mary Chase, vice provost for enrollment and university planning, said Creighton’s reputation, mission to serve, undergraduate research, internships in a city like Omaha and classes taught by professors rather than graduate students make a difference in recruitment.
She said the university attracts big numbers from other states — 132 freshmen from Minnesota, for example, 101 from Colorado and 99 from Illinois. Chase said she’d like to see more from Omaha-Council Bluffs area, which provided about 15 percent of the freshman class, or 174 students.