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Evangel University Sees Fourth Consecutive Year of Positive Trends

New projects, programs, and facilities are drawing students from around the globe to Evangel University’s campus. However, President Mike Rakes says the spiritual atmosphere and unchanged commitment to its founding principles is more important than numbers.
While national college enrollment has declined nearly 6% in the past five years, a downward trend expedited since the COVID-19 pandemic, Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri, has seen four consecutive years of enrollment growth.

“It’s shocking what’s happening,” states Mike Rakes, president of Evangel University, speaking of the college’s enrollment percentages.

2,521 students enrolled in 146 programs this past fall, and the university’s total enrollment saw an 11% increase this spring when compared to spring of last year. This total increase reflects a specific highlight of Evangel’s non-traditional offerings, which grew by 19% for the second year in a row.

Along with its positive enrollment trends, Evangel has seen record-breaking growth in the area of financial giving and awarded grant money. Since coming out of the post-Covid era, over $50 million has been given to the accredited liberal arts university. Additionally, Evangel has put $9 million into maintenance projects and completed a $6.3 million student housing project without acquiring any debt.

When presented with opportunities to speak to board members, staff, or other governing officials within the Evangel family, Rakes says that this is “code R.E.D.” time.

“Code R.E.D. time stands for rescuing, equipping, and deploying students. This generation is not a problem that needs solved, they are the answer God has for our broken world,” he states. Rakes has taken a stance of leading with the mission of rescuing current culture from the “hard left turn” it has taken away from God.

To accomplish this, Rakes places a high importance on creating a spiritual climate of transformation across the campus. Cultivating this climate has birthed a hunger that students have caught hold of and have allowed to resonate inside them.

“This resilience, he states, is creating an army of disciples. And that’s the atmosphere we are intentional about maintaining,” he says.

For Rakes, who holds two doctorate degrees and has been in the field of higher education for more than 30 years, he states the atmosphere has become simply refreshing.

One such example was demonstrated through the life of a young freshman girl who came to Evangel just a few years after the passing of her mother. Still carrying the burden of her loss, the young woman attended a morning chapel service and had an unforgettable encounter with the Holy Spirit.

“It changed her life. Once she encountered the Holy Spirit, she got involved in student clubs, started praying with others, and has become one of the brightest lights on the campus,” states Rakes. “She found meaning again.”

The story, though, is but one example in a pool of transformative testimonies that have happened through the Holy Spirit’s work on campus and through Evangel’s students, who now represent all 50 U.S. states and 40 unique countries.

Rakes takes great pride in Evangel’s spirit-empowered culture and is working hard to bring that same “Evangel experience” to online learners.

“Our undergraduate online learning is starting to take off, but we are moving into that carefully and slowly,” states Rakes, who wants online students to be able to participate in some capacity with the university’s Pentecostal community.

Yet with growing technological advancements and expansions to its 100-acre campus, such as the new dorm facilities and the 70,000 square ft. arena that will open this summer, Rakes wants people to know that Evangel University, at its core, has not changed.

“We are the same as we were in 1955,” he states. “Our values are not compromising. We aren’t one bit further from our Pentecostal roots, and we will remain Spirit-driven while offering a broad-based education to our students.”

Rakes and his team continue to dream and ask God for what He has next for the campus. Although details are still being finalized, adding an entrepreneurial business center is on the Evangel horizon and God’s faithfulness is already being realized for this next venture.

Ashley B. Grant

Ashley B. Grant has a master's degree in Human Services Marriage and Family Counseling from Liberty University and is a credentialed Christian counselor through the American Association of Christian Counselors. Grant also holds certifications in crisis pregnancy counseling and advanced life coaching. Ashley is a fourth generation Assemblies of God preacher’s kid and has one daughter and three sons.