SMC enrollment highest since 1991
Ashley Charnley | Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Despite the economic downturn of the past year, Saint Mary’s College is seeing its highest enrollment since 1991.
The College currently has 1,664 students enrolled, up from 1,527 in 2006.
Vice President for Enrollment Management Daniel Meyer said the increase can be attributed to two things.
“For the past four years, we have had more than 425 students in each of the first-year classes,” Meyer said. “Secondly, this year we had higher than expected retention of first-year students to second-year students.”
College President Carol Ann Mooney named an enrollment increase as a goal in her 2007 strategic plan, written to strengthen diversity and stabilize the campus community financially. According to the plan, the College’s operating budget is strained when the enrollment falls below 1,600 students.
In a struggling economy, Saint Mary’s families need more financial aid, which has resulted in an 11 percent increase of an average amount of $2,700 per student, according to a press release. In response to this, the College increases its institutional aid budget by around $2.6 million.
“A Saint Mary’s education prepares our graduates for life, not just that first job. A liberal arts education makes our graduates flexible, which is especially valuable when the economy sours,” Mooney said. “At Saint Mary’s, we have always worked with families to make our education affordable — but this year we have had to work even harder.”
Budget cuts and changes allow Saint Mary’s to offer both new and returning students the assistance to pay for their education.
“Everyone at the College has pulled together to make this increased aid happen. Our Financial Aid department has worked countless hours processing applications, all departments made budget cuts and members of the Board of Trustees and our Campaign Steering Committee established a fund to provide emergency assistance to returning students,” Mooney said. “We know that this extra effort resulted in a stable enrollment even in these challenging times.”
Meyer said the College’s residence halls are currently at 97 percent occupancy, which this has both positive and negative consequences.
“Basically an increase in enrollment means we are better utilizing available space on campus, as it was designed,” Meyer said. “On the negative side, students have less individual choice in either the hall in which they reside or their room choice.”
Meyer said he estimates maximum enrollment for the College to range anywhere between 1,700 and 1,750 students. The administration is still working to continue to maintain the high enrollment numbers and possibly increase them.
“We continue our work as a College to become more attractive to minority students,” Meyer said. “We’ve put a greater emphasis on improving the student experience, which has helped with our retention efforts.”