Allegheny College sent out more than 3,000 acceptance letters to prospective students this past year, according to Sue Stuebner, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the college. Of the accepted students, the college expects 558 freshmen and 12 transfer students to matriculate in the fall of 2016, for a total of 580 students.
The projected number of 558 students for the class of 2020 comes after two years of lower than expected enrollment. Vice President for Enrollment and Dean of Admissions Cornell LeSane said 489 students matriculated in the fall of 2015, a number higher than the 473 students who matriculated the year prior.
Professor of Political Science Sharon Wesoky, who co-chairs the college’s Finance and Facilities Committee with Stuebner, said the lower enrollment numbers have long-term consequences for the college.
“What happens is that we have a rolling budget deficit for four years while the class moves through the college,” Wesoky said. “So, until we can build the overall size of the college up again, there will be deficits.”
LeSane, who joined the college in August 2014, said Allegheny has changed several systems to increase enrollment numbers.
“Part of it is changing how we market and talk about the college,” LeSane said.
Stuebner said the college has re-engaged Royall & Company, which reaches out to students via email and text message on behalf of Allegheny. Allegheny previously utilized the company, but terminated its services in 2014.
According to LeSane, Allegheny has also changed its financial aid models to attract more students. He said the Office of Admissions has also hired an international recruiter to further the college’s diversity.
“As we think about preparing our students for a global market, the only way we can prepare them for that is to enroll a freshmen class that can represent that market,” LeSane said.
Although students have until May 1 to commit to Allegheny, LeSane said international students who have already committed come from countries such as China, Japan and the island of Yap, located in Micronesia.
Stuebner said the college has suffered from “summer melt,” or when students who have committed to Allegheny choose to go elsewhere.
“We’ve been a lot more intentional this year in…helping freshmen-to-be to feel more like a Gator from the moment they commit here until orientation,” Stuebner said.
In addition to these services, Allegheny has also contacted Hardwick Day, a company that projects enrollment and assists other consultants with marketing the college. With Hardwick Day’s assistance, Stuebner said the college has been able to more effectively market to students and set matriculation goals.
LeSane said the school’s higher enrollment projection comes in a “hyper-competitive” environment among colleges. He said Allegheny has to compete with approximately 270 colleges in Pennsylvania and many more in the region.
“You’ve got Ohio right next door, New York,” LeSane said. “They also have a large number of colleges and universities.”
According to Wesoky, the college can alleviate its current budget deficits if it meets its enrollment goals for several years in a row.
“Over time, the hope is that the deficits will go away and that we’ll be operating again at a surplus,” Wesoky said.
LeSane said the class of 2020 will not only be larger than in previous years, but the college has high expectations for the cohort.
“I’m excited about the type of students who have already committed to Allegheny,” LeSane said.