College’s mission, network drive increased enrollment

Grove City College is bucking national trends again, this time with a freshman class that’s nearly 20 percent larger than last year.

This fall the private Christian liberal arts college will welcome 629 new freshmen to campus. That is a marked jump from August 2020 when 527 new freshmen were enrolled.

The incoming class of 2025 is 52 percent female, with 48 percent hailing from out of state. The new students hail from 35 states, with big gains from Ohio, Michigan, Virginia, New York, and New Jersey. Nearly every new student – 98 percent – will be living on campus.

While the pandemic was surely responsible for reduced student numbers here and across the higher education sector in 2020, the impact of persistent challenges – demographics, an ongoing debate about the value of higher education, rising costs, among them – remain steady in the post-Covid-19 era.

Undergraduate enrollment at the nation’s colleges and universities dropped 4.9 percent last year, according to a National Student Clearinghouse Research Center study released in June. Adding to the bad news in that report, all of the decline was among students 18 to 24, a key demographic for schools like Grove City College.

In this environment, it’s worth noting that in addition to a big freshmen class, the College saw a 17-year high in applications and will also welcome 44 transfer students from other colleges and universities.

The secret to the College’s enrollment success isn’t really a secret, according to Lee S. Wishing III ’83, vice president for Student Recruitment. The qualities that define Grove City College -- excellent academics, Christian mission, campus community, career outcomes, and conservative values – are the main attractions, Wishing said.

“There are a number of factors behind our increased numbers, but I think the College’s clear mission and its remarkable network were responsible for the very good year,” he said. That second point is borne out by the fact that 92 percent of the new students have a connection to someone who has a relationship with Grove City College – alumni, family members, teachers, faculty, coaches, and others – that encouraged them to attend.

“We have noticed the so-called ‘Kevin Bacon’ effect in our network over the past several years and our marketing efforts in the last cycle were predicated on the idea that our natural network is far more extensive than previously believed and that with the right messaging and the right leads, our marketing efforts would stimulate favorable conversations in our network. Our data suggests that is exactly what happened,” Wishing said.

College’s mission, network drive increased enrollment

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