Iona University defies odds, grows enrollment by expanding student opportunities despite pandemic

Innovation, Value and Commitment to New Programs Lead to 32% Spike

Academics, Leadership, Rankings, Entrepreneurship

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — Iona College was on the front lines of COVID-19 when the virus first hit New Rochelle in March 2020. Hailed as the “first to close, first to reopen,” Iona nevertheless pushed ahead on its path of innovation. Today, this Catholic liberal arts college just north of New York City has emerged as an anomaly in higher education, with new-student enrollment spiking 32 percent in two years.

Fueled in part by the addition of new academic programs as well as expanded student activities all across campus, Iona’s growth comes as the College prepares to nearly double its footprint. In May, Iona finalized plans to acquire a 28-acre campus in nearby Bronxville, N.Y., formerly home to Concordia College. Building on that momentum, Iona in July also announced a $20 million gift from NewYork-Presbyterian to help establish the NewYork-Presbyterian Iona School of Health Sciences on its new campus.

The Class of 2025 on Mazzella Field.

“We are so pleased to see interest in Iona University continue to soar,” said Kevin O’Sullivan, senior vice president for Enrollment and Student Affairs. “Our significant increase in enrollment over the past two years – despite the challenges presented by the pandemic – demonstrates families’ belief in the value of an Iona education.”

OT students practice helping a client put on a shoe.

Among other programs, new academic degrees recently added include a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, with both a traditional, four-year undergraduate program as well as an accelerated, 15-month program for those with a bachelor’s degree in another field. In addition, the Hynes Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation launched its first two majors – a Bachelor of Arts in Entrepreneurial Leadership and a Bachelor of Business Administration in Entrepreneurship.

Students in a dance class lift their arms and their right legs in the air.

As part of the College’s commitment to developing the whole student, Iona also expanded opportunities in performing arts across dance, theatre, orchestra, choir and more, highlighted by the College’s first Irish Dance Ensemble. Similarly, Iona introduced a new Club Sports program. Seven clubs launched this fall, including men’s and women’s soccer and basketball, men’s rugby and lacrosse, co-ed weightlifting, and esports. Meanwhile, Iona is beautifying the heart of its New Rochelle campus, recently breaking ground on the “Murphy Green,” which will add a vibrant social hub for outdoor activity by Spring 2022.

Rick Pitino coaches the team during practice.

Iona has long been renowned for its Division I Athletics program. Now, all eyes are on Iona and its new Hall of Fame men’s basketball coach, Rick Pitino. After taking the Gaels to the Big Dance in March, Pitino is eager to claim the team’s 14th MAAC Championship and go further in the NCAA tournament than Iona ever has before.

All of these efforts continue to bring Iona national recognition. Among its many accolades, Iona was recently named as a “Top 20 Most Innovative School” by U.S. News & World Report. Other notable rankings include The Princeton Review 2022 Best Northeastern Colleges, Forbes 2021 Top Colleges, and The Wall Street Journal/THE 2022 College Ranking List. The value of an Iona education was also highlighted by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW), which ranked Iona in the top six percent of all 4,500 colleges and universities nationwide based on its long-term return on investment. This was reinforced by’s ranking of “Most Transformative Colleges,” which ranked Iona at #19 nationally.

“While it is always gratifying to be recognized, individual rankings could never fully convey the significance of an Iona education. Our collective inclusion on all of these lists, however, confirms what we have known all along – that Iona delivers a transformative, affordable education that prepares students for a lifetime of success,” O’Sullivan said. “Iona is a school on the rise, and I feel this is still just the beginning.”

Students at Iona on welcome day.

Founded in 1940, Iona University is a master's-granting private, Catholic, coeducational institution of learning in the tradition of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers. Iona's 45-acre New Rochelle campus and 28-acre Bronxville campus are just 20 miles north of Midtown Manhattan. With a total enrollment of nearly 4,000 students and an alumni base of over 50,000 around the world, Iona is a diverse community of learners and scholars dedicated to academic excellence and the values of justice, peace and service. Iona is highly accredited, offering undergraduate degrees in liberal arts, science, and business administration, as well as Master of Arts, Master of Science and Master of Business Administration degrees and numerous advanced certificate programs. Iona’s LaPenta School of Business is accredited by AACSB International, a prestigious recognition awarded to just five percent of business schools worldwide. The Princeton Review recognized Iona’s on-campus MBA program as a “Best Business School for 2023.” Iona University also recently launched a new, fully online MBA program for even greater flexibility. In July 2021, Iona University and NewYork-Presbyterian announced the establishment of the NewYork-Presbyterian Iona School of Health Sciences, to be principally located on the University’s new campus in Bronxville, N.Y. Supported by a $20 million gift from NewYork-Presbyterian, the NewYork-Presbyterian Iona School of Health Sciences offers a new vision for collaborative health care education, modern workforce development, and community care. On July 1, 2022, Iona officially changed its status from College to University, reflecting the growth of its academic programs and the prestige of an Iona education.