Vice President for Enrollment and Dean of Admission Paul Steenis said that he expects a total of around 400 new students at Knox next year, including 370 freshman and 30 transfer students. As of May 22, 381 students have submitted their deposits and more are expected to submit over the summer.
Transfer students have until June 1 to submit their deposits. Despite the official May 1 deadline for freshman students, the Admission Office is still working with some students to help them attend in the fall.
“The thought is that if we can bring in about 400 new students or thereabouts each year and have a good retention rate from the first to the sophomore year in particular, then we can maintain an enrollment of right around 1,400 or thereabouts,” Steenis said.
The expected amount of 370 freshmen students will put the incoming class at around 25 students larger than the current freshmen class. As of now it is uncertain how the incoming students will affect the total size of Knox as the retention for next year is uncertain.
Last year, the retention rate from freshman to sophomore year was 87 percent. The strategic plan would like to increase it to 90 percent, but Steenis noted this is a goal for the future and that 87 percent is on par with most schools similar to Knox.
The incoming class is also similar to this year’s in academic terms, with an average ACT composite score of 26.9. In addition, 67 percent of students with a reported class rank were in the top 25 percent of their classes.
“Last year’s entering class was stronger academically, which is always good to see because there’s some correlation between academic preparation and retention, so it bodes well for retention. It looks like this year’s class, in terms of the academic profile is going to be very, very similar to last year,” he said.
Next year’s class has seen an increase in students from the southern suburbs of Chicago and downstate Illinois. The Southside is the one area of Chicago where Knox has seen an increase in enrollment. Steenis attributes this partially to less competition, as out-of-state schools have focused recruitment efforts more on the northern suburbs.
Steenis expects a percentage of international students similar to that of this year — around 20 percent. However, Director of International Student Services Joshua Ferchau explained that exact measures of international students can be difficult as definitions of which students counts varies.
“The problem is [that] not everybody’s identities are always totally congruent with their paperwork, their passports that they’re carrying,” Ferchau said.
Currently, Ferchau is the only admissions counselor who travels abroad to recruit international students. To attract these students, he focuses on countries that normally have students come to Knox or to the U.S. in general. He also looks at countries that are represented in the U.S. but not as much at Knox in particular.
The countries with the most international students coming next year are Pakistan, Vietnam, India, China and Nepal. Nepal is one country which is more represented at Knox than the U.S. in total. Incoming students represent 33 countries besides the United States. Ferchau uses the same methods to recruit international students as are used for U.S. students, including Facebook.
“Most students in the world are connected to Facebook,” Ferchau said, “especially if they’re looking toward the U.S. to study there’s a really good chance they have some presence on Facebook. And I’d say that Facebook is the place where we have the most social media presence.”
Donald Trump’s presidency has caused some uncertainty in regards to future international enrollment. Steenis worried about both international perception of the U.S. and direct travel bans, such as the one currently under litigation, and how they would affect Knox’s enrollment.
“We have such a larger percentage, one in five of the students in the entering class are international. You get very nervous that nothing happens that would potentially cause people to question their decision to come here or to stay here if they’re already enrolled,” he said.
The 20 percent figure is higher than the admissions office sets its goals for most years. According to Ferchau, they aim for 50 to 75 out of 400 students, whereas this year’s class has closer to 90 students. Steenis welcomes being over the target.
“We will continue to be one of the most diverse liberal arts colleges in the Midwest, if not in the country in the year ahead,” Steenis said. “I mean, I have no doubt about that.”