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GOSHEN -- Goshen public schools aren't the only educational institutions experiencing enrollment swells this year.
When college courses begin at Goshen College Wednesday, professors will see a few more freshmen faces in their classes than in past years.
The college is welcoming new students this weekend, and its freshman class -- the class of 2009 -- is the largest since 1999. In 2000 and 2001, there were 194 first-year students. Last year there were 169. The college reports 200 freshmen this year in its preliminary enrollment numbers, although the admissions department won't have final numbers until the second week of September.
The class of 2009 also includes 14 National Merit Finalists -- twice the previous record at Goshen College. The average number of merit finalists is usually less than four per year.
Rachel Lapp, director of public relations, thinks the increased enrollment is the result of a combination of efforts of the staff at the college.
"We have increased significantly the number of college fairs we've attended -- training admission counselors, encouraging and providing them with the support they need," said Lapp, "focusing on internal processes that help us be more efficient."
Lapp added that this has been an effort for the past three years. She said the college does draw students from the local area and makes an effort to talk to local high school guidance counselors.
"We have recognized places where we were not being as good as we could have been and sought to improve that," said Lapp.
The first-year students began moving into residence halls Saturday, while returning students arrive today.
According to the college's preliminary reports, 25 percent of new students are from Elkhart County, 42 percent from Indiana, and 30 percent from Pennsylvania, Illinois and Ohio.
Lapp said one of the things the staff does is try to cultivate a sense of welcome, such as knowing a student's name when he or she first arrives on campus.
Lapp believes the number of National Merit Finalists who decided to attend Goshen College this year could have something to do with the trend in service and volunteering among young people, along with faith and culture. "They are service-minded. They are used to giving back. ... Northern Indiana is a place where there is a significant church life," she said.
And Goshen College offers a unique service opportunity. Students are encouraged to study abroad in its SST program
"They are going to be in pretty good company here," said Lapp. "We have majors like physics that have been nationally recognized."
Returning students will notice a couple of changes, such as the removal of the historic Eighth Street gate and the completion of a four-story apartment building for seniors. The gate will be rebuilt about 20 feet south of the old one.
Contact Melissa Madden at firstname.lastname@example.org.