Grace King, contributing
Graphic by: Olivia Wieger
Overview of Enrollment
Following the lowest enrollment in 19 consecutive years, the college has experienced an estimated 5.8 percent increase in enrollment to 1,922 full-time degree-seeking students.
Following the release of the college’s 20th Day Report for Fall 2018, the official count for freshmen students is 570 students.
According to Pete Helgeson, Dean of Enrollment Management, this is an increase in size compared to last year’s incoming class of 438 students.
Helgeson attributes the increase in class size due to program additions such as the marching band and the Dr. Wangari Maathai STEM fellows program.
The College has a rolling admission, which allows students to submit their application at any time throughout the year. However, this year’s incoming class was different.
Typically, the admissions office experiences peak enrollment time between October, November and December.
“We started to see this upward trajectory early on, but really in March, April and May it was finalized,” Helgeson said.
“For the longest time, we thought it could just be that the timeline shifted,” he added.
Because incoming students enrolled later than usual, the residential life office had to scramble to configure housing for not only the incoming class, but the entire student body.
For the first time in school history, Newman Hall is a fully freshmen men’s dorm, in addition to Turner Hall and one floor of St. Michael Hall.
Freshmen women occupy all of St. Scholastica Hall and Memorial Hall, as well as 50 women live in Guadalupe Hall
The board of directors has determined that in order for the school to maintain the residential pillar, 83-85 percent of the student body must live on campus.
Currently, 80 percent live on campus with 1,535 students total.
This semester 300 students live off-campus. Half of the students were moved through the commuter application and half were moved through the room-draw process.
According to Sean Mulcahy, Director of Residence Life, two factors impacted where students live: the incoming freshman class size and the current student body retention.
With all first-year students required to live on campus and an increased incoming freshman class size, more upperclass students were able to move off campus later than expected.
Taryn St. Louis, junior, who was waitlisted on the off-campus housing list since the initial room draw process in April, was given the opportunity to move off-campus four days before classes began.
“I would not be able to return to school if I wasn’t off-campus, so I really had no idea if I was going to school here or not,” St. Louis said. “At that point, I told some of my friends I wasn’t returning because I hadn’t heard anything.”
St. Louis noted that finances were the major factor in her desire to live-off campus.
Jacob Roth, junior, was a member of the male waitlist approved to live off-campus.
“We wanted to live off campus mainly because of how much cheaper it is,” Roth said. “We also knew that we were going to gain valuable life experience such as working with landlords and paying rent and utilities.”
Roth added that if the price to live on campus had been similar to off-campus pricing, his group may have stayed on campus.
While Mulcahy asserted financial need is not considered when determining waitlist order due to a large population desiring to live off-campus, he has considered modifying some of the commuter exemptions in order to be more equitable to the student body.
The modifications include the requirement for the commuter’s home to be located within a 30-mile radius. This was established at a time at which smaller local communities, particularly farming communities, needed their child to live at home to help meet the needs of the family.
Commuter households do not include students whose parents own rental properties. However, commuter students are considered non-traditional students.
Mulcahy also expressed his desire to increase the automatic off-campus living age requirement to 24 years or older, as opposed to the current 23-year age requirement.
While off-campus living is composed of both commuters and room-draw processed off-campus students, per every four students moved off-campus around 24 students’ housing situation changes on-campus.
In 2017-2018, full-time undergraduate students paid $27,730 for tuition and fees.
This year tuition was raised by $1,000 to $28,730. This increase is around 3.5 percent.
“I think our business office and our financial planning division tries to keep overall costs at the forefront of their mind, but for us to financially maintain a sound budget, increases will occur at that rate or at a very comparable rate for the foreseeable future,” Helgeson said.
With tuition increasing each year around 3.5 percent, seniors will be paying roughly 10.5 percent more tuition than they once did as freshmen.
Over the span of four years, this will equate to an estimated $3,017 in tuition increases.
“I would not anticipate a significant increase – a multi-thousand-dollar increase, but at the same time some schools have tried a major tuition reduction that has not been met with the success you might think,” Helgeson said. “It’s kind of a short-term fix and students’ bills do not change all that much because at the same time they reduce scholarships.”
Helgeson noted that even if enrollment continues to increase, there will continue to be tuition increases in order to stabilize tuition over time.
The official definition of retention is based upon the return of first year to second year students.
The College’s retention rate has been between 77-80 percent for the last four years.
Just last year, there were four major trend groups of students who did not return across the entire student body. These students were identified as nursing students who did not get into the nursing program, transfer students, students within a few hours of graduation and undecided majors.
In order to increase retention in these populations, the college implemented multiple changes.
The nursing program was able to expand its number of positions from 25 to 36 students with approval from the Kansas Board of Nursing. This expansion allowed every junior who was eligible to continue in the nursing program this year.
Students who are within a few credit hours of graduation and decide to transfer are difficult to track.
“That’s going to be the trickiest one,” Helgeson said. “That’s the one we don’t have the most control of.”
For undecided majors, there are many new programs being introduced in order to guide students towards the right major.
The College has contracted with an outside vendor called MyMajors, which provides an assessment of interests and aptitudes. Students will take this assessment before they enroll in their first semester of classes.
In addition, students who have accumulated 70 or more credit hours must declare their major or they will be blocked from registering.
The college is also piloting an undecided major course instructed by Dr. Matthew Ramsey and Karen Wood.
“The idea for the course came as a result of an ongoing discussion focused on why students choose to leave Benedictine College before completing a degree,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey mentioned that the course also hopes to facilitate an academic connection within departments in order to foster community for those students who are undecided.