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McPherson Welcomes Large Freshman Class, Maintains Steady Growth

McPherson College began the 2017 fall semester Tuesday by welcoming the largest class of freshman to campus in more than 40 years. The freshman class of more than 200 coupled with a fall-to-fall overall retention rate of 75 percent continues the college’s 20-year steady trend of enrollment growth.

First time freshman numbered more than 200, all new students totaled nearly 270, and McPherson College total enrollment is more than 700, according to Christi Hopkins, vice president for enrollment management. “We are very excited that students are continuing to choose McPherson College,” Hopkins said. “It is a strong endorsement of the quality programs and faculty that can be found on our campus.”

Hopkins said students and parents are not only researching the cost of college education, but also the quality and are finding that McPherson College is a great value, which was recently affirmed by Money Magazine. The college was listed as the top-ranked small college in Kansas on Money Magazine’s 2017 “Best Colleges for Your Money.” The magazine considers quality of education, affordability and outcomes in developing its rankings.

“We have been focused on value all year long,” McPherson College President Michael Schneider said. “Because of our remarkable donor-base, we are able to provide generous scholarships and a great experience in and out of the classroom.”

Students like freshman Myriah Webster of Marquette, Kansas are looking at a variety of factors when researching colleges. Webster, who is majoring in biology and will play saxophone in the band, said affordability and quality programs ultimately convinced her to choose McPherson College.

“With all the scholarships and the option for McPherson area students to live off campus, McPherson College was the most affordable choice for me,” she said. “I came because of the band program. When I talked with my music professor I could tell he really cared about me. He had a connection with my high school band instructor, so I knew how good the program was and he offered me the resources I needed to continue to play my instrument in college.”

Webster is still deciding if she will focus on pre-veterinary or bio-science, but said “the amazing faculty” and the outstanding reputation of the biology program will help mentor her in making the right decision for her future. “I also compared science facilities and was really impressed with the building and all of the science equipment at McPherson College,” she said.

Taylor Cunningham, a freshman from Wellsville, Kansas recognized the value in the graphic design program at McPherson College when she participated in workshops on campus during her junior and senior years in high school.

“I was so impressed with the faculty when I visited campus. I got to work with them and could tell they were very experienced and know what they are doing,” she said. “I also wanted the opportunity to work in the graphic arts computer lab. It’s really great.”

Cunningham said other aspects of the program added value to her like the ability to study graphic design and studio arts in the same program, and the AIGA competition in Wichita, where McPherson College graphic design students won eight out of the 10 award categories last year.

“I definitely hope to compete in that,” she said. “I like that I can pursue graphic design as well as studio art and have the opportunity to learn from great instructors in both areas.”

President Schneider said that although welcoming in a large freshman class is a great accomplishment, the real success of the college is based on long-range accomplishments.

“We just recently completed our third fundraising campaign in a dozen years on time and over our goal, and we are maintaining steady enrollment growth with the largest freshman class in 40 years and one of the highest retention rates of colleges in our area. I couldn’t be more pleased for the college and for our community.”

The college focused on growth during work this past year on its strategic plan. The strategic plan called Community by Design, is a new approach to planning that puts the entire campus community at the heart of the process taking aim at some of higher education’s largest challenges. Over the next five years the plan will focus on developing and enhancing academic programs modeled after recent successes, designing the McPherson College community, planning and building facilities to support growth, and creating a plan to build a $1 billion endowment.

“The community-based approach to creating this plan has generated a great deal of momentum across campus,” President Schneider said. “I think we are inspired in all areas of campus to implement the plan and to explore ways that McPherson College can become one of America’s great small colleges.”

This year, McPherson College students come from 41 states, with 39 percent coming from Kansas, and from 19 different countries. President Schneider will welcome students and faculty back to campus on Friday in the traditional Opening Convocation at noon in Brown Auditorium.

Although official headcount numbers are recorded after the 20th day of classes on September 20, 2017 and may change slightly, first day enrollment figures are highly anticipated on college campuses.