Shea Kelley, Copy Editor –
The Lynchburg College Class of 2016 consists of a below-average enrollment of 530 first-year students this Fall—a considerably smaller figure when compared to the record-setting 609 students in the 2015 class.
Vice President for Enrollment Management Rita Detwiler said it is not a number that the LC Enrollment Services Office is satisfied with, especially since their goal of 550 first-year students was not reached. Fortunately, they were more than happy to welcome a record 102 transfer students this Fall, surpassing their original goal of 75 transfer students.
“550 [first-year students] is sort of the benchmark and the goal that we strive for, so we were a little short of that this year [with 530],” Detwiler said.
Detwiler said they were surprised to see lower enrollment numbers this year as they had such a competitive applicant pool with approximately 4,500 applicants. She said that while the number varies from year-to-year, there are multiple factors for why enrollment could be down, such as higher tuition costs or not offering certain academic programs.
Detwiler said one of the biggest factors they had to deal with this year was the decreasing number in high school graduates from around the country. However, the Virginia demographics have managed to remain consistent, thus creating a national interest in Virginia.
“Nationally, the number of high school students is starting to decline. The good news is that Virginia is fairly stable. The challenging news is that we’re competing against state schools that are growing their populations, and now we’re competing against other colleges in the country who know that Virginia demographics are stable. For example, Pennsylvania is going to see a really sharp decline in high school graduates,” Detwiler said.
Other staff working in Enrollment Services said they are still happy with the number of students enrolled in past years despite the recent decrease in enrollment.
“In regards to our class you are correct, it is smaller than it has been in years past, but with that being said last year (Fall of 2011) was a record year for us at LC,” said Assistant Director of Admissions Jonathan Fries in an email.
“In the last five years the number of [incoming] freshmen has been between 570 and 609. In the last ten years, since the Fall of 2003, the number of freshmen has been 550 or above,” Detwiler said.
Detwiler also said the retention rate—the number of first-year students returning for sophomore year—is looking to increase this year well above the national average of 70 percent.
“For this year the retention rate is looking at around 75 percent, and the college allocates I think somewhere between 22 and 23 million dollars of its own money back to students in terms of scholarships and grants,” Detwiler said.
The recruitment process of prospective students takes some serious time and effort, Detwiler said, but ironically, much of the recruiting comes from our own student body.
“It takes us a solid two years, or slightly more, to recruit a class, so we have to be incredibly persistent in our messages to all students. But the number one reason why students say they apply is friend-referrals, so if every Lynchburg College student could tell another friend about the college, that makes a huge difference,” Detwiler said.
The 2016 class enters campus with a collective 3.24 grade point average, while the 43 first-year Westover Fellows boast an average GPA of 3.88, according to an article on the Lynchburg College website.