Strong freshman enrollment and three large returning classes have Hope College anticipating a record number of students for the fourth consecutive year.
Hope will make a formal count in mid September, a few weeks into the school year, but the college is poised to top last year’s record high of 3,388 students, according to William Vanderbilt, vice president for admissions.
The incoming Class of 2018 will arrive on campus on Friday, Aug. 22. Fall-semester classes will begin on Tuesday, Aug. 26.
“We had an extremely successful recruitment year and are anticipating approximately 840 incoming students for the fall,” he said. “They’ll be joining the three largest classes in the history of the college, which makes an overall record all but certain.”
Vanderbilt points to the quality and character of Hope as central players in the college’s success.
“Hope offers a distinctive blend of great academics, a supportive environment and an opportunity to grow in faith, in combination with a unique blend of liberal arts and pre-professional programs,” he said. “Those dimensions of the college run in tandem with outstanding retention rates and four-year graduation rates as well as a competitive tuition rate.”
He noted that the Hope difference manifests itself in ways that families can see even in the admissions process, when faculty members themselves take a direct interest in students who have not yet even set foot on campus.
“We have faculty that engage in the student recruitment process beyond what most faculty in the country do,” Vanderbilt said. “They start caring about these students even before they’re here, and that makes a difference.”
Vanderbilt noted that the enrollment outlook is particularly rewarding considering that colleges and universities in general are facing challenging demographics. “The trend has been a declining number of graduating seniors from high school, particularly from the Midwest and Michigan, so we’re definitely bucking the trend from that perspective,” he said.
The National Center for Education Statistics in January 2013 showed the number of graduating seniors nationwide declining about three percent during the current period, dropping from a high of 3.4 million in 2010-11 to 3.3 million by 2014-15. The percentage drop for the Midwest is a bit higher, nearly five percent, based on an overall decline from 702,540 students during 2010-11 to 670,100 during 2014-15.
The new class won’t be the largest to have arrived on campus. The current senior, junior and sophomore classes clocked in at 848, 904 and 822 students respectively.
Then again, given that Hope seeks to keep overall enrollment from outpacing campus capacity, Vanderbilt noted that the college wasn’t reaching for a single-class record this year. “840 is right on target for where we want to be from a class-size perspective,” he said.