McPherson College is starting the 2018-19 academic year positioned to have the best enrollment in the history of the college. As classes begin for students, full-time equivalent enrollment is 775 and overall student retention is 80 percent, the strongest numbers ever.
“The best indicator of quality is when people keep coming back,” Michael Schneider, president of the college, said. “Our students recognize that McPherson College offers high quality academic programs that lead to success after graduation. No other schools in the Midwest report higher placement rates, and in several of our programs students are finding jobs in their field prior to graduation.”
Liz Thornton, a junior from Karval, Colorado with a student-designed major in business, communication, and theatre, appreciates having opportunities within her major that will lead to future success. Thornton plans on a career as a manager of a professional theatre company. Working as a stage manager and lighting designer beginning in her freshman year gave her valuable experience and opportunities to grow as an artist, she said.
“I get to learn while I am doing,” she added. “It’s very exciting and I don’t think I could do that anywhere else.”
Other students like Erica Almaraz, a senior from Fontana, California majoring in health science, and Angel Salmeron, a junior from Dodge City, Kansas majoring in biochemistry, both to point to quality academic programs and support from faculty and staff as reasons for their success at McPherson College.
“At a liberal arts school like McPherson College, it has helped me knowing that I have choices and options and can still graduate on time,” Almaraz said.
“I have options to succeed here,” Salmeron said. “My advisor is like a parent to me and the professors always want to help you learn and succeed. I have friends from bigger schools calling me to help them with their organic chemistry.”
The entire college began focusing on retention more than four years ago when it partnered with the Kansas Leadership Center to find strategic solutions to increasing student retention. Using the framework provided by the KLC, the college began exploring adaptive solutions to its retention challenge. By implementing practices that focus on the needs of students, the college began seeing results.
“We have seen a steady enrollment growth since 2014. Our enrollment this fall has increased by more than one hundred full-time students since that time,” Christi Hopkins, vice president for enrollment management, said. “We have made improvements to freshman orientation and other student support resources that have made a positive impact on our students. Our faculty and staff are focused on student success and it has really made a difference.”
There are other signs of progress on campus too. Financially, the college finished its 2018 fiscal year on budget and experienced one of the best fundraising efforts in many years. The college continues to meet the highest ratio on the U.S. Education Department’s financial-responsibility test when many schools struggle or fail to meet the department’s standards.
Several facility updates were also completed before the beginning of the academic year. Two classrooms were completed in the lower level of Melhorn Hall to accommodate the business department, and the exterior of Dotzour residence hall was repainted and new blinds were installed throughout the entire building.
McPherson College was also recently recognized by the Chronicle of Higher Education on its list of “Great Colleges to Work For.” This is the fourth year the school has appeared on the list and the third year the school has received honor roll selection. McPherson College was the only Kansas school included on the list. The Chronicle of Higher Education, the nation’s top trade publication for colleges and universities, surveyed more than 250 institutions nationwide. Only 84 institutions were selected for the “Great Colleges to Work For” list, and only 10 of those made the Honor Roll in the small-college category.