Knox has once again welcomed a class of bright, lively, and interested freshman to campus that are ready and willing to accept the challenges that are brought forth by college life. As per usual, Knox’s opportunities have attracted and retained more students than was originally projected. As Dean of Students Xavier Romano said, Knox has completely filled up.
The enrollment goal for last year was 375, based on historical figures gathered by the college. They closed the last academic year with 397 new students committing their next four years to Knox College. The office of admissions expected a summer melt, which occurs when students who originally thought they’d be attending or returning to Knox would decide otherwise.
“It just obviously didn’t happen,” said Romano. “The retention looks absolutely spectacular.”
While having so many new students is good for the college, there are sometimes difficulties in finding accommodations for all the new students. Then, in the middle of the summer, news spread that the universities in Argentina were discussing closing their doors this fall due to H1N1 virus, which would have left several study-abroad students stranded back at Knox, making housing even more crowded.
“It’s an interesting thing when you have no control whatsoever,” said Romano. At any one time, the college expects to have a portion of its students studying off-campus. Luckily, the universities in Argentina were not closed and these students’ spaces were available during fall term for the displaced freshmen.
Craig Southern said this year 15 freshmen and 16 transfer students are living in temporary housing for fall term. This means that they’ll be living in the spot of a student who is currently studying abroad and will relocate when that student returns.
“We’re going to have to move a lot of different people around this term, especially at the end of the term,” said Southern.
Southern tried to place these new students together in suites or in the same room. This year, only one freshman was placed in an apartment for fall term. This is a change from the fall of 2006, the last time a large number of freshmen were displaced. That year, several freshmen and new students found themselves living in Hamblin, the townhouses, Tompkins, and other spaces on campus usually reserved for upperclassmen.
This year, Southern also contacted returning students who would have to share a room with a freshman and offered them the opportunity to move off-campus for fall term. Southern is still offering to allow juniors and seniors the opportunity to find alternative housing in Galesburg for the year. As the rooms open up, the displaced freshmen will be moved to a more permanent location.
Even those spaces off campus, however, are filling up. Romano said that many of the apartments that house students around Knox, such as the Yellows and Knox Crest have become occupied with several students over the past few years.
“The students are so engaged with the community,” said Romano. “It has done so much good for our downtown Galesburg community.”
For many of these students, Knox was their first choice, whereas in the past Knox had been an alternate behind other prestigious liberal arts schools on the east or west coasts. These new students, Romano says, are “very gregarious, very bright, and interested in global events.”
In heading the orientation events, Romano was struck by the level of debate already present among these new students and impressed by their drive for learning and passion for the community surrounding them. After visiting other Midwestern school orientations, Romano was reminded of how truly special Knox students are.
“We’re not like anybody else,” said Romano. “There’s a great vibe on campus.”
One of the major factors, however, that was discussed during orientation and one of the reasons why Knox expected a “summer melt” was the economy. For many, these are hard economic times, and though Knox is wonderful, attending such an institution is not exactly cheap.
“I think this new class is very much a product of their time,” said Romano. “I think they’re going to be savvy. In the past year and a half, more students have been concerned about their dollar.”
Romano thinks that these skills will help Knox maintain a fundraising and financial-aid minded institution that is available for bright students who are interested in receiving a liberal arts education. More of these students, Romano guesses, will graduate and go into community service, Americorps, Vista, or work for an NGO instead of going straight to grad school.
Several Knox students have already begun those paths. Every day, Romano is in contact with alumni from around the world who have become successful in many different forums.
“Individuals from Knox have the ability to change us and make us better,” said Romano. “It’s more than just a diploma, it’s humanity.”