Graduate enrollment rises and retention is high while the number of first-year students slips at Goshen College

GOSHEN, Ind. — Fall 2008 enrollment statistics at Goshen College show gains in the number of graduate students and a continued high retention rate, but a decline in first-year traditional students.

College officials Tuesday reported a total head count of 958 students attending full or part time and taking courses, seeking graduate degrees or seeking degrees through Goshen’s Division of Adult and External Studies (DAES), compared with 971 last year.

This year’s graduate total includes an all-time high of 28 full- and part-time students enrolled in the college’s two programs – a Master of Science degree in Nursing and a Master of Education degree in Environmental Education, according to Stan Miller, the registrar at Goshen College. Last year, 16 graduate students were enrolled.

In addition, 44 students are enrolled in the two DAES degree-completion programs – the Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership and the Bachelor of Science in Nursing for registered nurses.

The DAES program is on a different academic schedule than the traditional program and Mary Moretto, director of DAES programs, said that she expects 23 students to enroll this week in the Organizational Leadership Program (OLP) and 19 students to enroll in the nursing program next week, for a total of 42 more students this fall.

“We’re pleased that our graduate and degree completion programs are attracting so many students. These numbers are a strong indication that we are meeting the changing needs of our students,” said President James E. Brenneman. “We also anticipate and are hopeful that our spring enrollment will be higher because of an increase in degree completion and traditional undergraduate transfer students.”

Brenneman also said he is pleased that retention – a key measure of student satisfaction – continues to be high at Goshen College.

The latest figures show that 84 percent of the 2007-2008 first-year students are enrolled this fall. This marks the sixth year in a row of retention rates at or above 80 percent.

Nationally, the average first-to-second-year retention rate at all U.S. colleges and universities for undergraduate, master’s and doctoral programs – the percentage of students who return for a second year of education – is 68 percent, according to ACT Inc., the nonprofit organization that administers the ACT college preparation test. For private colleges the first to second year retention rate for undergraduates is 69.6 percent; for public colleges, 68 percent.

Rising student satisfaction has prompted the college’s retention success over the past six years, according to Bill Born, vice president for student life and dean of students. For example, the 2007 Student Satisfaction Inventory of Goshen College students showed a high degree of student satisfaction in such areas as the overall experience of being a student, the course content within majors, the quality of instruction, faculty and academic advising, safety and security, campus living conditions, the caring attitude and helpfulness of staff, spiritual support and intercollegiate athletics.

“Our high retention figures show the value of effective strategies and efforts across campus by faculty and staff to better serve our students,” Brenneman said.

The president also acknowledged a decline in the number of traditional first-year students. The college begins the academic year with 172 first-year students in contrast to 202 last fall and 206 in 2006-2007. The last two years were the only first-year classes with more than 200 students since 1999-2000.

Brenneman attributed the first-year decline to a drop in the number of Mennonite students – 94 this fall compared with 129 last year – which is part of a larger demographic shift in Mennonite Church USA. “While we are aware of this reality that has been impacting our enrollment for several decades, we will continue to reach out to Mennonite students as we also extend a wider welcome to the larger community,” he said.

Other factors cited for the decline included increased competition with other private colleges for top students and the marketing challenge of making the college better known in the region. To improve recruiting and develop new strategies, the college is conducting a survey of prospective students this fall to learn why they chose to attend a college or university other than Goshen.

“We worked hard over the past year to attract more first-year students, but it’s clear that we have to do more, and we’re doing so,” Brenneman said. “Over the past eight months we have hired an enrollment consultant, improved practices and procedures in the Admission Office and increased our regional marketing. Enrollment remains our highest campus priority.”

Other fall 2008 enrollment highlights:

  • Forty-one percent of the college’s first-year students are from families in which one or both parents or legal guardians attended Goshen College, compared with 32 percent in fall 2005. Nationally, 8.8 percent of first-year students at four-year colleges and 6.5 percent of students at private four-year colleges attend the alma mater of one or both parents, according to the most recent available comparison data from the 2007 Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) Freshmen Survey, which is administered by the Higher Education Research Institute.
  • The profile of the Class of 2012 shows the continued strong academic credentials of Goshen College students. The average grade point average for the incoming class is 3.50 on a 4.0 scale along with an average SAT score of 1170 and an average ACT composite score of 24. Class members come from 11 countries and 23 states. The top declared majors are nursing, biology, business, education and music.
  • The top five states sending full- and part-time students for traditional undergraduate programs at the college are Indiana (400), Pennsylvania (93), Ohio (66), Illinois (60) and Michigan (36).
  • Of all full-time students, 60.6 percent are from Mennonite-affiliated churches and 39.4 percent come from other denominations or faith traditions.
  • The number of U.S. minority students continues to be strong. There are 113 full- and part-time minority students enrolled this fall compared with 77 four years ago. In addition, 48 international students are enrolled from 23 countries, with the largest numbers from Kenya and Ethiopia.

—Written by Richard R. Aguirre

Editors: For more information about this release, to arrange an interview or request a photo, contact Goshen College News Bureau Director Jodi H. Beyeler at (574) 535-7572 or or Richard R. Aguirre, Goshen College director of public relations at (574) 535-7571 or


Goshen College, established in 1894, is a residential Christian liberal arts college rooted in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition. The college’s Christ-centered core values – passionate learning, global citizenship, compassionate peacemaking and servant-leadership – prepare students as leaders for the church and world. Recognized for its unique Study-Service Term program, Goshen has earned citations of excellence in Barron’s Best Buys in Education, “Colleges of Distinction,” “Making a Difference College Guide” and U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” edition, which named Goshen a “least debt college.” Visit