Class of 2020 to be most diverse in campus history

Alex Weidenhof, News Editor

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Allegheny College continued increasing diversity among its first-year classes with the incoming class of 2020.

According to Cornell LeSane, vice president for enrollment and dean of admissions, 590 students will matriculate this fall, with 558 first-year and 32 transfer students.

LeSane said this year’s enrollment numbers reflect a recent growth in new Allegheny students.

“When you think about the decline in the number of high school graduates in this area [Pennsylvania and other Mid-Atlantic states] in particular, we’re pleased to see a second year increase in growth,” LeSane said.

Last fall, 515 first-year and transfer students matriculated. LeSane said the class of 2020 will be the “most diverse group” to enroll at the college.

Roughly 28 percent of incoming first-years identify as an underrepresented minority, according to LeSane, an increase from 25 percent in the class of 2019 and an increase from 21 percent in the classes of 2017 and 2018.

Andrew McMillen, associate director of admissions and transfer admissions coordinator, said the incoming class’s diversity extends to students’ economic status. Nearly one third of the incoming class is eligible for Pell Grants, a figure McMillen said signifies the class’s diversity.

“[There is] a very large number of lower socioeconomic students, and I think that alone definitely brings a different perspective to campus,” McMillen said.

While incoming students’ socioeconomic backgrounds contribute to the diversity of Allegheny, LeSane said other factors also lead to the class’s diversity.

“The diversity of the class goes beyond just race and ethnicity, and it’s represented in the states represented, the countries represented, and the number of high schools,” LeSane said.

In total, 24 countries are represented in the class of 2020, including New Zealand, Pakistan and Ethiopia. Incoming first-years come from 37 states, though roughly 40 percent are from Pennsylvania.

Darnell Epps, associate director of the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access and Social Justice Center, said the incoming class’s diversity is “exciting.”

Although students from historically underrepresented backgrounds can encounter difficulties integrating at colleges, LeSane said he believes there are support systems in place.

“The fact that you have…Darnell [Epps], who worked in our office, now in that office, it’s a huge win,” LeSane said. “Instead of just recruiting the students, he’s now able to work with those students over the next four years.”

While departments and organizations aim to assist students on campus, admissions faced the problem of “summer melt,” or when students who commit to Allegheny choose to go elsewhere before matriculation.

Senior Associate Director of Admissions Linda Clune said “summer melt” had less of an impact on the incoming class than it had in previous years due to better communication with students.

“We’ll always individually communicate with students how they need to be communicated with to stay engaged,” Clune said.

McMillen and Clune said the college is investigating different ways to communicate with admitted students in order to keep them engaged.

Regardless of the work necessary to retain students, McMillen said the college is eager to see the class of 2020.

“They’re some of the best and brightest we saw over this past year, and we’re excited to have them,” McMillen said.

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