Boasting students from 35 states and 20 countries, the class of 2018 is considered the most diverse in Allegheny history, but this class is also known for its under enrollment, being the smallest of all current classes at Allegheny.
Brian Dalton, vice president of enrollment and college relations, said the Allegheny College Office of Admissions was originally hoping for an incoming class of about 600 students. This number was later adjusted to a goal of 540 in early August but the final class size came in at about 480 students.
“A big part of it was logistical,” said Dalton in regards to the reasons for the smaller class size.
Dalton explained that Allegheny recently underwent an initiative to make the college’s application process entirely paperless. The college’s hope was to streamline the application process, making it more accessible and efficient for applicants and for the college but the new system presented challenges.
The new program that the college will be using in its effort to go paperless is called Customers Relation Management (CRM). It allows the college to digitize all the documents related to admission that would have been traditional hard copies in the past.
Dalton explained that the program requires admissions officers to click back and forth between documents on the computer screen, slowing down the process.
The conversion to the new CRM system began in June 2013 but was not up and running until Oct. 1 of the same year.
Around this same time the Common Application, an online application accepted by most colleges, suffered an internal failure, making it difficult for admissions counselors and high school guidance counselors to submit necessary documents to colleges. Dalton explained that documents through the Common Application were received by the admissions office but when opened, documents appeared blank or were formatted incorrectly. Dalton explained that these program glitches took a toll on receiving applications for the class of 2018.
“By the time we had begun to catch our stride we were already behind in our numbers,” said Dalton.
Dalton explained that technological difficulties were not the only issue that the admissions office faced this year. The issue of college debt played a large role in the admissions process as well. In recent years the debate over whether college is still a good investment has caused many to rethink it as an investment.
Another factor that has affected admissions numbers is that the sizes of high school graduating classes has been decreasing in recent years, giving colleges fewer overall applications.
“There is a declining pool of students from which to select your class,” said Dalton on the recruiting process.
Competing with other colleges for applicants created a financial obligation, on Allegheny’s end, to present strong financial aid packages. Dalton noted that many schools offered competitive financial aid packages to students this year.
The effects of under enrollment will be felt by all students at Allegheny, not just the class of 2018. Dalton explained that the budget for the academic year is in the works, and it will be smaller than in previous years.
Linda Wetsell, chief financial officer and treasurer, said that the college has about $1 million less in the budget than previous years. She attributed a large part of it to the under enrollment of the first year class.
“It has a financial implication because we have less revenue,” said Wetsell.
Some organizations have already felt the cut backs. Allegheny Student Government (ASG) upon receiving its budget for the the year found it will be working with significantly less money than previous years.
ASG’s budget in the past, has been around $310,000, according to Miguel Liriano, ’16, the ASG treasurer. He explained that the number fluctuates slightly from year to year because the budget is tied directly to the number of students on campus but this year’s drop is a much larger drop than ASG has ever experienced.
ASG’s budget for the 2014-2015 academic year is currently set at $293,410. A drop of approximately $17,479 from last year’s budget.
“It is evident that under enrollment is taking a toll on the student body,” said Liriano.
Liriano says that ASG will have less money to give to student organizations this year, but that this is not a financial end all for ASG.
“We just have to be more fiscally responsible,” said Liriano.
According to Wetsell the new budget for this year is set to be presented to the Board of Trustees on Oct. 17.