Despite tough economic conditions and the financial troubles that many families are experiencing right now, it looks like Knox is on track to have a full freshman class coming in next year. Rumors have abounded in recent weeks about the incoming class being drastically below quota or there being large cuts in financial aid, however, neither of these rumors seems to be the case.
According to the most recent numbers at the close of the business day on Wednesday, May 27, Knox has 388 enrollment deposits for next year. According to registrar and Professor of Mathematics Kevin Hastings, the school is right on track for next year’s class.
“The college would love to see stability. [The number of deposits as of Tuesday, May 26] is at about the 360 level. That will stabilize us in the 1,300’s, probably somewhere below 1,350, probably,” said Hastings.
“The target for this fall’s entering class is 375 entering students, plus or minus 10. As of Tuesday, the college has 385 deposits,” said President Roger Taylor.
As part of an effort to maintain the accessibility of Knox to all students of sufficient academic ability, regardless of their financial situation, financial aid offers have been increased. Vice President of Finance Tom Axtell said, “We have for next year’s budget, preliminary numbers, we have a significant increase in financial aid for next year. This year is 42 percent. Next year is a 43.5 percent discount rate. This is what we calculate, especially given the recession.” In other words, the amount of money that Knox students will be asked to pay, as a percentage of the total cost of a Knox education, will go down.
Dean of Students Xavier Romano talked about the approach the school has been taking in bringing in the 1st year class. “There’s clearly no doubt there are people who are concerned about [loss of incoming students during the summer]. One thing that we did when the economy collapsed was reaffirm the idea of access. We go out of the way to make sure that if they meet our academic standard they are able to afford the school. Because access has been an institutional priority for so long, I think this gives us an advantage over other schools. I think people are still very excited about Knox, and I go back to the idea of accessibility,” said Romano.
The dean continued to tout Knox’s financial aid as being very generous in awarding Knox Grant Aid (KGA).
Over the past months there has been a concerted effort on the part of the administration, admissions, and the faculty to bring in the freshman class. “It takes all of us to bring in the class… everybody contributes to the college’s success. If the admissions department has some people who are in your major and sitting on the fence, take ten minutes and give them a call.”
Taylor echoed this. “This has been an unusual year for everybody,” he said. “This year Paul Steenis and Dean Breitborde worked together with a program to work with departments to help them work more with prospective students. And the faculty answered the call.”
For instance, Professor of Biology Stuart Allison sent out 85 e-mails to prospective students and education professor Jason Helfer’s phone call changed a prospective student’s decision to attend a large university.
As part of the effort to bring in top students for next year’s class, Dean of the College Larry Breitborde sent an April 6 e-mail to the faculty distribution list:
“…Department chairs will be receiving a memo from Paul Steenis and me with a request for a special effort from the faculty to help bring in next year’s class. Each chair is being provided with a list of names and contact information for accepted students who have expressed an interest in their field of study. We are asking that chairs organize their program faculty to make contact with each of these students [….] The idea is that the additional personal contact directly from a faculty member — and a contact which speaks to the student’s expressed interest — will contribute to the student’s decision to attend Knox.
“This is not a new effort — faculty have been asked to do this in the past. We have not asked faculty to do this in the past several years, but, as everyone knows, this year is different. As the President has said more than once, bringing in the class is more critical this year because of the uncertainty in the external economic system. Given our dependence on tuition for our operating budget, it is more important than every that we convey to ACCEPTED prospective students the interest we show in every one of our students — something that still sets us apart from many of our competitor institutions.
“‘The President has referred to this as an ‘exciting’ initiative; ok, so it’s more ‘critical’ than ‘exciting,’ to be sure! We are all dependent on each other’s good will and commitment to our common task to ‘bring in the class’! Thank you in advance for your help during these next critical few weeks.”
Romano and Taylor both responded to campus rumors that the incoming class would be of a lower caliber than classes in previous years. “The average ACT [this year] is 28. Last year it was 28. The percent in the top 10 percent in high school is 31 percent [this year] down from 51 percent, and 25-26 percent of the incoming class is made up of domestic students of color,” said Taylor. He was very clear that the number of students of color given for the incoming class only included students from the United States, rather than including international students of color in the calculation as some schools do.
When asked about the strength of the incoming class, Dean Romano replied, “I’ve been hearing that comment for 11 years. It strikes me that the upper classmen are always looking at them [new classes] with distrust. I think in terms of academic strength it will be a strong class. We would be doing students a disservice if we accepted good students who weren’t strong academically. I think we’re being very consistent in the strength of our students.”
Romano did say that since the school no longer requires standardized test scores, admissions does now focus more on GPA, personal statements, and the interview. “We don’t accept students who will fail out or we would have a retention problem [….] I do feel very strongly that our faculty are used to teaching at a certain level…and I doubt that they’re going to change that any time soon.”
Speaking more broadly about the Knox population, Romano said, “Curious. That last word resonates around here.”
The Office of Admission would not comment for this article, saying that only Dean of Admissions Paul Steenis was authorized to speak, and he is currently on vacation.