At 198 full-time students, Goshen College’s incoming first-year class is significantly larger than last year’s 160, and is the first incoming class in Goshen College history with a student body that is not majority white. 

The make-up of the 2020 first-year class is as follows: 46% white, 32% Hispanic, 5% nonresident alien, 4% Black or African American, 3% Asian, 3% of two or more races, 1% American Indian or Alaska Native, and 6% of unknown race or ethnicity. 

“The fact that we have a student body that is more representative of the diversity in the community around Goshen is really exciting,” said Brian Yoder Schlabach, news and media manager.

In the early days of COVD-19, many college administrations feared their numbers would drop, due to students opting for colleges closer to home or deciding instead to take a gap year.

According to an article published by the New York Times on April 15, the American Council on Education predicted a 15% drop in enrollment nationwide, and a 25% drop in international student enrollment, especially from Asian countries with tighter travel restrictions. Based on this prediction, they estimated there would be approximately $23 billion lost in the world of American higher education. 

Susan Fitzgerald, an analyst from Moody’s investment service, was quoted in the same article saying that she believed COVID-19 was “a greater systemic shock” to higher education than 9/11 or the 2008 recession, because “we don’t know how long it’s going to go on or the multiple impacts.”

Despite these dire predictions from nationwide trends, Goshen College’s numbers remain stable, lining up with first-year enrollment trends from the last 13 years. The number of full-time first-year students since 2007 has averaged around 185. 

“It’s amazing that even though there’s a pandemic and people’s college plans were in flux, that [Goshen College] had such strong and positive numbers, especially with the incoming class,” Yoder Schlabach said. 

While the size of the incoming class remains consistent, the demographics of students have transformed greatly, according to the GC Factbook.  

In 2007, only 6% of the student body was Hispanic, compared to 32% today. This year’s first-year class is only 46% white, compared to 81% of incoming first-years in 2007. This change displays a 35% difference. 

This year, there are also less Mennonite students than ever before, with more atheist, Catholic and conservative Protestant students taking their place. In 2007, 64% of the student body identified as Mennonite, compared to 23% now. Only 4% of the students in 2007 identified as Catholic, compared to 13% now. As for conservative Protestant students, one-fifth (19%) of the incoming first-year class identified as such, compared to 10% in 2010. 

Goshen College also used to be an almost exclusively residential campus, with 89% of first-year students living on campus in 2007, and only 60% of students living on campus now. 

In terms of first-to-second year retention, 122 students from the fall of 2019 cohort re-enrolled this semester. For those who did decide to leave, the reasons were not explicitly stated as related to COVID-19, though they may have been linked, said Adela Hufford, director of orientation, transition and retention. 

Hufford explained that normally students who do not perform well academically are academically disqualified from re-enrolling. Due to the pandemic, the administration and faculty chose to suspend the satisfactory academic progress (SAP), deciding that students would not be barred from returning to Goshen because of the spring and May term grades. 

“You could take non-credit and it would not impact your GPA, but it would impact your academic progress,” she said, “The financial aid office has to report to the federal government students that were academically not on-par with SAP.” 

This meant that many students lost their federal financial aid, and simply could not afford to return to Goshen in the fall. According to Hufford, the financial reasons were the most commonly cited reason for students not returning this semester, which is unusual. 

As for some incoming first-years, COVID-19 worked in their favor, securing them financial aid, and making their college decision easy. 

Anastasia Stevens, from Rushville Indiana, wanted to come to Goshen, but she wasn’t sure if she could afford it. 

“There was a really big scholarship that was two parts, an essay and interview; I had already done the essay, and they scheduled an interview in Indianapolis,” said Stevens. “I actually ended up getting the award, because they canceled the interview because of COVID, so I automatically got it, because I wrote one of the better essays.”

Drew Smoker, from North Carolina, was deciding between two schools, and in retrospect, is glad she came to Goshen

“Considering my other option, which was NC State, which has already been sent home, I definitely feel reaffirmed that I made the right decision,” she said.