Dave Sandroeicz of Swoyersville, about to start his sophomore year at King’s College, moves back on to campus Thursday morning.Clark Van Orden/The Times Leader
Local colleges and universities have been setting freshmen enrollment records year after year, but that is not the case for most of them this fall.
More than half the local schools will actually see a drop in freshman class size.
But school officials aren’t disappointed, saying they’re still within the range they either projected or wanted. They also tout other enrollment figures their schools are proud of, including some records.
When the academic year opens on Monday, Misericordia University will fall about three students shy of tying the school record for largest freshman class size that was set last fall. But the number of transfer students coming to the Dallas Township campus will be a record, shattering the previous high by nearly 20.
Glenn Bozinski, director of admissions for Misericordia, said 150 transfer students will be in classrooms next week. The old record was 131 set in 2004, he said.
Not only will the school see its largest tally of transfer students, they were selected form a record applicant pool. Bozinski said that a little more than 500 students requested a transfer to Misericordia.
Bozinski attributed the increase to the same reason schools aren’t setting records for record freshmen class sizes: the floundering economy.
Students are choosing to transfer to a school that’s closer to home – more than three-quarters of the transfer students are Northeastern Pennsylvania residents – or to a major that gives them a better chance at a job in an economic environment that’s not welcoming to college graduates, he said.
Of the 150 transfer students, 65 are entering the school of health sciences. That school includes nursing, occupational and physical therapy, medical imaging, and speech and language pathology.
“More people are looking for careers with good job markets and opportunities. A lot of people are gravitating toward health care,” Bozinski said.
And with the lowest tuition of the county’s private colleges, Misericordia may also be the least expensive option for students transferring from an area two-year school such as Luzerne County Community College or Lackawanna College. Bozinski said more than one-third of transfer students are LCCC graduates.
The University of Scranton not only set a record for largest incoming freshmen class, but three others too. Stan Zygmunt, spokesman for the school, said the incoming class set records for: largest number of children of alumni, with 101; the largest number of incoming international students, when factoring in incoming freshmen and graduate students; and the largest applicant pool with 8,028.
Zygmunt said this marks the eighth consecutive year that this record was set and the first year the number of applicants broke the 8,000 plateau.
With 1,043 freshmen this fall, the Scranton school will realize an increase of 75 students in the incoming class. That obliterates last fall’s freshman class size record of 968.
Keystone College in La Plume also set one record and came close to setting another.
“The college had the second largest applicant pool in its history. Also, we have over 120 new transfer students, making it the largest new transfer population in enrollment history. Despite the poor national economy, students of all ages realize the importance of achieving a quality college education,” said Fran Calpin, Keystone College spokesman.
At Wilkes University, the estimated freshman class is 535, more than 40 fewer than last fall.
King’s College saw an even steeper drop in year-to-year freshman enrollment – from 569 last year to 500 this fall – but it will still mark the third straight year with 500 or more freshmen. That was still more than one college official thought the Wilkes-Barre school would be welcoming.
“We are surprised and pleased by the size and quality of the incoming class. Given the economic turndown and the changing demographics with regard to the number of college-bound students, we had budgeted for 30 fewer freshmen than we are welcoming (on Thursday),” said Teresa Peck, King’s associate vice president for enrollment and academic services.
At one school, a new academic program helped attract twice as many students as the university had anticipated, but overall the freshmen enrollment is down a dozen students from last fall.
Christian DiGregorio, Marywood University’s director of admissions, said, “We are pleased and extremely optimistic that the number of new, incoming students has held steady in spite of the economic downturn. The new architecture program attracted hundreds of applicants. Even after a very selective process, the first class will have over 50 students, more than double our initial goal of 20.”
Some other local schools did increase freshmen enrollment from last fall, without setting records.
Penn State Hazleton welcomed 594 new students to campus, 11 more than 2008’s fall class. Penn State Wilkes-Barre has 268 students, seven more than last year. LCCC has 200 more students this fall than last as 2,459 students will attend the Nanticoke junior college.
School will release official enrollment figures until several weeks after the school year begins.