Even before Bethany College’s fall incoming class walked through the Oglebay Gates two months ago, we had already been hard at work developing future admissions strategies. For almost all colleges and universities today, enrollment strength remains a vital indicator of an institution’s health, attractiveness, and vitality.
This year’s arriving class is among the strongest academically in Bethany’s history, representing exceptional potential as leaders on campus and in the global community. Among them are students from Germany, Ireland, the Czech Republic, and the United Kingdom. Ten new Kalon Scholars, chosen following campus interviews last spring, bring outstanding volunteer leadership to the service-learning tradition at Bethany. We also welcomed members from our founding denomination, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and a number of “legacy” Bethanians whose parents or grandparents attended the College. Our annual matriculation ceremony, convened on a beautiful late-summer evening, began our new academic year on a very promising note.
As we look to the future, we have adapted our enrollment strategy to changing times and new marketing realities. Recognizing a decline in college-aged students in several of our key recruiting regions—including Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Maryland—we have increased our out-of-state grant support for students in those areas while looking abroad for well-prepared students from other nations. Senior Vice President and Bethany alumnus Sven de Jong is visiting China this month to explore recruitment opportunities there among some of that nation’s premier institutions.
Simultaneously, we plan to leverage dual-enrollment programs with high schools. Such arrangements can offer high-achieving students one year of college-credit attainment toward fulfilling requirements for graduation from our institution. This is important as cost-conscious families increasingly look for ways to fast-track college completion for their students. Bethany already has dual-degree programs with Columbia University, Case Western Reserve University, and Duquesne University, as well as bachelor’s-to-master’s programs with Carnegie Mellon University.
On campus, our revitalized Bethany Choir and the new marching band, “The Stampede,” offer rich potential not only as vital co-curricular activities but also as recruitment tools. Like athletics, such programs enhance the value of student experiences; we are ever mindful of research that shows that engaged students are likely to complete their undergraduate years.
In various departments, experiential learning opportunities abound. These include the $1 million, student-managed McCann Student Investment Fund and the Cooey Davis Experiential Fellowship in business; extensive hands-on technological experiences in webcasting and broadcasting for Communications and Media Arts students, and internships and study-abroad opportunities across the curriculum. All such opportunities enrich students’ learning and career potential.
Our approach to experiential learning has gained national attention. In January, I will serve as a panelist for the Council of Independent Colleges Presidents Institute on the theme of “Building Value—Linking Classroom to Career.” The seminar is designed to illustrate ways in which a liberal arts education, such as that offered by Bethany, can translate into real value for graduates of such programs.
Because Bethany takes a holistic approach to evaluating high school students’ potential as they apply to the College—factoring in not only an applicant’s academic credentials but also activities, leadership potential, and communication ability, among other indicators—we encourage a campus learning experience that is not confined to the classroom. The College recognizes that learning takes many forms, and benefits from the exciting mix today of new knowledge bases, “smart” classrooms, interactive exploration of topics, collaborative research with faculty, intensive internships off campus, and many other academic innovations, often supported by online technology.
At the heart of all enrollment success is our faculty. On Green & White campus visitation days, Bethany is proud to showcase the faculty whose devotion to the College and their students’ success is evident. Bethany is fortunate to have an unusually talented and engaged faculty, and their impressive teaching, advising, and mentoring have achieved significant results as measured by students’ achievements.
And so the enrollment process goes forward in many ways, using new and traditional methods. We look forward to keeping Bethany College competitive and ensuring that students who want to come here have the means to do so. As always, we ask for your support, as alumni and friends of the College, in recommending prospective students to our admissions office, and serving as ambassadors of our mission and programs whenever you can. We also invite your financial support for scholarships, program funding, new technology, faculty development, and all of the value-added features that our students and faculty expect and deserve.
With your active engagement, we will keep the doors wide open to A Small College of National Distinction.