First-year student enrollment down; not a trend

First-year student enrollment down; not a trend

Nearing the end of peak admissions season last spring, Goshen College predicted the coming year’s first-year enrollment numbers would be down.

They were right.

With a first-year undergraduate student count of 160 students this fall, there is a notable size difference compared to last year’s first-year class numbering 200 in total. 

Dominique Burgunder-Johnson, vice president for marketing and enrollment, said that the source of these low numbers can only be traced back to the admissions office itself.

“We had a lot of significant transition in our admissions office in the fall,” Burgunder-Johnson said. “Three out of our five undergraduate admissions counselors were new. Like when anyone starts a new job, it takes time to onboard, it takes time to hire that person…so if you are, essentially, three people down that has quite a significant impact.”

With lower student numbers, the college began to rethink housing options on campus for this fall; the decision eventually leading to the closing of Miller Residence Hall, sans for a floor dedicated to gender inclusive housing. 

“After we did the first rounds of housing last May, we met with admissions…and had every intention of having Miller stay open because we were expecting a class of roughly similar size,” said Chad Coleman, director of student life operations. “But it didn’t quite pan out that way.”

Incoming students already assigned to Miller Residence Hall were notified through email that their room assignment would be changing; moving all first-year students over to Kratz Residence Hall.

“Firing up heat in a giant building that’s half full just was not a good use of institutional resources,” Coleman said. “We had smaller numbers, and we saw an opportunity to make sure our floors were fuller and that we were being stewards of our resources here.”

Both Coleman and Burgunder-Johnson see this year’s number as an outlier and appear confident that next year’s enrollment will be back up.

“It was an anomaly, a blip,” Coleman said.

Burgunder-Johnson agreed.

“No, I do not think this is the beginning of a trend,” she said. “I think it was an exception, because we have definitely been on this upward trajectory for the past three years now.”

Although the first-year enrollment numbers were down, Burgunder-Johnson noted that the transfer student numbers were the highest they have been since 2005, a big reason for that being the transfer of athletes. They totaled 64.

The Hispanic/Latino student numbers have also been on the climb, going from 4% nearly ten years ago to 25% this fall.

But even more stable are the numbers for all undergraduate full-time students. 

“Overall enrollment for traditional undergraduate full-time students is actually dead even with last year,” Burgunder-Johnson said. 

736 students this year to 741 last school year.

It is only after analyzing all of these numbers, alongside the drop in first-year admissions, that one can say: Goshen College is doing OK.

“You hear stories of other colleges shutting down,” Burgunder-Johnson said. “I do not think we’re at risk for that at all, but there is no guarantee of the class every year. If you have any kind of thing like a major transition or even just a little bit of change, it can have a big impact.”

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