For the second year in a row, Goshen College’s incoming first-year class has seen tremendous growth.

In 2014, 159 first-year students enrolled at GC; in 2015, there were 176. With the start of the 2016 fall semester, the number of first-years jumped to 185.

While these numbers indicated growth in enrollment, they also mean a change in dynamics for the campus.

Adela Hufford, dean of admissions, said of the class of 2020, “We’re pleased not just with the size, but with the quality.”

These new students bring more than just the numbers that represent them; they bring unique backgrounds and experiences as well. They show some significant demographic differences emblematic of overall trends in the college’s enrollment, especially religiously and racially.

This class brings strong academic repertoires as well. Seven graduated top of their high school class. 41 percent of students were in the top 10 percent of their class, which is up from 23 percent in last year’s incoming first-years.

Just like in years past, this year’s first-year class brings many different perspectives to the college experience. They come from a range of places, including 26 different states in the U.S. and 13 different countries. There are also more locals than last year. 58 percent are from Indiana and 39 percent from Elkhart County as opposed to last year’s count of 50 percent and 36 percent, respectively.

Although the highest percentage of this class’s population claims the Mennonite faith (30 percent), they show signs of increased religious diversity. The next highest religious demographics are Conservative Protestant (23 percent) and Catholic (13 percent). This continues the change in conversation about what faith means on campus.

Similarly, the most common racial designation, white, has decreased from 59 percent from the 2015-16 first-years to 56 percent for this class. The Hispanic population rose to 28 percent, and the African-American percentage increased to four percent. The portion of international students declined to five percent from seven percent.

Kelsey Winters, a first-year student from Indiana, expressed interest in diversity and the college’s “focus on social justice” as factors for coming to Goshen.

Claude Lilford, a first-year international student from South Africa, said he chose to come to Goshen “because it’s a Christian liberal arts school in America. Also, the diversity thing is kind of cool.”

The top areas of study for the class of 2020 are nursing, biology, undecided, business and American Sign Language interpretation. ASL in particular experienced a spike in popularity with this group, jumping to 19 students from last year’s six.

Hufford expressed satisfaction in the job the admissions department did this year and voiced high hopes for the coming year. The entire staff has returned from last year, which is unusual in admissions.

“Counselors are going back to the same high schools,” said Hufford. “Continuing relationships with coaches especially...I feel confident moving forward.”

This year, admissions expects to work more closely with financial aid to assure that students are receiving all the best information about their tuition. Additionally, admissions will continue to partner with faculty, who propose new ideas for their programs and recruitment into them.

Of course, admissions hopes to grow enrollment even more next year. Optimistically, their goal for 2017 is 220 incoming students.