Bethany College opened the new academic year Monday with an academically talented and diverse incoming class, according to Dr. Scott D. Miller, President of the College.
Mollie Cecere, Director of Enrollment Management, said the College enrolled 325 new students, including 280 freshmen, 30 transfers and 15 graduate students. As a selective, residential, national liberal arts college, Bethany anticipates maintaining an annual headcount of 1,100 and a residential community of just over 800 this fall. Dr. Miller said that the longer-range goal is to selectively increase the residential population to 925.
“We strive to be a classical, residential, liberal arts college committed to teaching and student success, a place where academics and student life complement each other, for we recognize that learning takes many forms, both inside and outside the classroom,” he said.
Twenty-seven states and eight countries are represented in the Class of 2018. Cecere noted that Ohio produced the largest group of new students followed by Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Florida and Virginia, respectively. Also, the incoming cohort boasts 32 West Virginia Promise Scholars and nine of the prestigious Kalon Leadership Scholars. The privately funded Kalon program recognizes students for leadership, academic, and service achievement.
Dr. Miller cited three ways Bethany is fostering affordable education while providing new options to students.
“Bethany recognizes that a college education is an investment in the future,” Dr. Miller said. “As we celebrate our milestone 175th anniversary this academic year as the state’s oldest institution of higher learning, there is no better time to make a Bethany education more affordable. We did this through expanding our scholarship program, increasing work opportunities and implementing a tuition freeze for the 2014-15 academic year.” The freeze applied to all incoming and returning undergraduate students, he added.
Bethany’s tuition is already far below that of similar institutions. The average cost of tuition and fees at a private institution is $30,094, while Bethany’s is $25,736.
The College also expanded a number of student support services earning different national recognitions. Dr. Miller led a Council of Independent Colleges national conference session early last spring on the career focus of liberal arts colleges. The theme of the session was “Building Value: Linking Classroom to Career.” In July the College was recently featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education for its focus on a student-centered learning environment.
Over the last seven years the College has invested significantly in a wide variety of physical improvements to be more responsive to student expectations including the addition of new suite-style student housing, expanded athletic and fitness facilities, and new student life space.
This spring a new agreement with Webster University was signed opening study-abroad possibilities for students through Webster’s programs in 11 countries around the world. The Webster program, coupled with the College’s relationship with Arcadia University, brings over 75 new opportunities to Bethany’s international portfolio, Dr. Miller said. The College also recently renewed its agreement with the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in digital communications. These are two of the agreements Bethany has with 16 institutions around the world.
Among Bethany’s educational partners are dual-degree offerings with Columbia University, Case Western Reserve University, Duquesne University, Carnegie Mellon University and others.
The McCann Learning Center, which houses the PASS, Beth Bridge and tutoring programs, is also important to student achievement, Dr. Miller noted. The Center was recognized by the Washington, DC-based National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities as one of eight innovative programs nationally to assure student success.
Miller also discussed the importance of The Bethany Plan, which aids students in identifying with and becoming a part of academic, co-curricular and extracurricular activities. Students can take advantage of global study-abroad trips, career-focused internships and research opportunities. Senior capstone projects and comprehensive examinations round out a student’s education at Bethany.
“We all have 168 hours in a week,” he said. “A typical student will devote 18 hours per week to classroom activities and sleep between 42 and 50 hours per week. At a residential liberal arts college, we partner with students for learning activities for the remaining 100 hours. This might be athletics or recreation, a campus job, a fraternity or sorority, or service learning.” Dr. Miller noted that service learning and community outreach are key elements of The Bethany Plan, reflecting a campus-wide commitment to voluntary service.
The College’s eight fraternities and sororities play an instrumental role in campus life, he said. Bethany’s Greek organizations include Alpha Sigma Phi, Beta Theta Pi, Delta Tau Delta, Phi Kappa Tau, and Sigma Nu fraternities, and Alpha Xi Delta, Phi Mu, and Zeta Tau Alpha sororities. Over 35 percent of Bethany students are members of Greek organizations.
He also noted that the College’s highly competitive NCAA Division III athletic program fields 22 teams and an equestrian club team – the largest number of sports on any college campus in the state. Over 30 percent of the residential population competes in one of these programs.
The oldest degree-granting institution in West Virginia, Bethany traces its origins to the founding of Buffalo Seminary at what was then Bethany, Virginia, in 1818. The institution counts 1840 as its founding as a degree-granting college. Located on a beautiful, historic, 1,300-acre campus of 45 buildings in the wooded foothills of the Allegheny Mountains 39 miles from Pittsburgh, Bethany enrolled 1,100 students (headcount) in 2013-14.
Bethany is the only private National Liberal Arts College in West Virginia, and in recent years has received national recognition for quality and cost from U.S. News and World Report, Barron’s, Washington Monthly, Forbes, Princeton Review and Colleges of Distinction. Last year, the College was ranked seventh in the nation by U.S. News and World Report in the percentage of graduates to attend graduate school within one year of graduation.