"We're trying to figure out what we did so we can do it again," joked Cindy Sisson, dean of admissions.
The state is phasing out the prison program, which accounted for 362 Grace students last year and just 48, who are finishing their degrees, this year.
"We kind of saw it coming, and we knew it would be huge," Sisson
Including the prison participants, enrollment dropped from 1,773 last year to 1,616 this year, a decline of 8.9 percent.
Excluding the prison participants, however, enrollment at Grace rose 167 students, or 11.8 percent, from a year ago.
A big part of that was a 19-percent increase in the size of its incoming class of freshmen and transfers, Sisson
About 47 percent of new students chose the new three-year degree option, which may have accounted for a lot of the increase, she
The school also has been expanding its master's degree offerings in subjects such as business, counseling, and orthopedics industry regulatory affairs and compliance.
Degree completion programs - for students who didn't finish degrees the first time around - enrolled 77 this fall, up from 65 last year and 43 in 2009, the first year the option was offered.
"I really think it's all the new on-campus and online programs that are offsetting the decline in prison enrollment," Sisson