(Posted August 30, 2010)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Usually when an incoming freshman class arrives at Juniata College there is often a new monumental building improvement to greet them as they step onto campus. This year, the monument is the class itself.

Over the past two years, many colleges and universities have had trouble recruiting prospective students in a crisis-torn economy. Juniata has not been unaffected by the downturn -- employees agreed to a salary freeze, programs were scaled back -- but in 2010 not only did the college make its recruitment goal of 430, the incoming class exceeded expectations by a wide margin.

"It's hard to prove that being included on all these lists and moving up in the US News & World Report ratings helps attract students, but the fact is that the cumulative effect of these top ratings keeps Juniata on the radar screen for students beyond Pennsylvania and also reinforces the quality of our education for the college's prospective students from within the state."

Thomas R. Kepple, president of Juniata.

The 445 students arriving in campus is a testimony to Juniata's growing reputation as a nationally known liberal arts institution, but the large influx of students also can be traced to several new programs designed to bring in students from not only central Pennsylvania, but from different states and countries.

The incoming class is the second largest in Juniata's history and includes seven National Merit Scholarship Program finalists.

While students have long known that Juniata provides a quality education, the momentum created by high school seniors flocking to become a member of the Class of 2014 also has influenced the national education experts who compile top college lists, best-buy lists, college ratings and consumer guides.

Juniata has been featured as an "overlooked gem" in a new book on college admissions, "Acceptance," by David Marcus. Forbes.com rated Juniata 82nd in the nation of all colleges and universities, and the college also has been included as one of the top 218 colleges in the Northeast by the Princeton Review's 373 Best Colleges."

"It's hard to prove that being included on all these lists and moving up in the US News & World Report ratings helps attract students, but the fact is that the cumulative effect of these top ratings keeps Juniata on the radar screen for students beyond Pennsylvania and also reinforces the quality of our education for the college's prospective students from within the state," says Thomas R. Kepple, president of Juniata.

Another way for Juniata to maintain is momentum in challenging times is to create recruitment programs that better target prospective students that will be a good fit with Juniata's educational mission.

One of Juniata's most effective programs for recruiting has been the Gold Card program, designed to bring in students who are directly recruited by people they know or by people who are prominent within their community. Alumni are asked to fill out a Gold Card with a student they think would be a good fit at Juniata. Those who refer students through the program are updated on the student's progress through each admissions step.

In addition, if a student is accepted, $1,000 of their financial aid package is awarded in the name of the person who referred them.

Juniata's "yield," which means the percentage of students who actually enroll at the College out of the larger number of admitted students in a given year, has increased significantly with Gold Card students.

Typically, the overall yield for a college class is around 30 percent. In 2009, 103 prospective enrollees were identified through the program and 53 enrolled, a yield of 51 percent. This year, 131 Gold Card students were admitted and 62 enrolled -- a yield of 47 percent.

"Enrollment counselors can't be everywhere during recruiting season. This program allows us to be everywhere our alumni are," says Michelle Bartol, dean of enrollment.

The Gold Card program seeks to personally involve the college's alumni in a student's progress through recruitment. Enrollment counselors update each Gold Card referral participant on the student's progress. The college asks each alumnus to call the student to answer any questions, follow up after the student's campus visit, and call after the student is admitted.

"It gives the prospective student a more solid connection to the College and it helps us cut through the noise and the avalanche of information that kids see every day when they consider colleges," Bartol explains

Another success story in bringing in new students is the college's Inbound Program, which offers freshman weeklong "activity workshops" designed for specific interests such as outdoors, art, hiking, science, and even equestrian. The camps are designed to help new students bond with other freshmen who have similar interests.
The WalMart Foundation in 2008 awarded the College $100,000 to help build on Juniata's demonstrated success in enrolling and retaining first-generation college students.

The grant was used to allow first-generation students to attend Juniata's innovative Inbound Retreats program free of charge. Students also receive small grants to cover any lost wages they would have earned during that week if they were employed during the summer, and covers textbook and laboratory expenses during their first semester at Juniata.

Twenty-three incoming students received to award in 2009 and all 23 are still enrolled at the college. This summer 32 students received the award. "Traditionally first-generation college students can have a much more difficult time transitioning from high school to college," Bartol says. "With Inbound, they're instantly connected to a network of friends and will have people to seek out for help during that all-important first year."

The quality of the students attracted by Juniata's new programs is obvious by looking at the statistics compiled by the college's admissions office. More than 2,300 students sent in applications to be considered by Juniata. The average grade point average for the new freshman class is 3.73. Its average SAT score is 1183 (these scores reflect only the test's critical reading and math results).

Bartol also points out that the 2014 Juniata class has a significant number of students from states other than Pennsylvania. For the second year in a row, the number of out-of-state applications (58 percent) outstripped the number of prospective students applying within Pennsylvania (42 percent). About 58 percent of the incoming class is from Pennsylvania (the first class to have less than 60 percent of its class from Pennsylvania), while 42 percent of the class are international students or are from locations out of state.

Juniata also has seen significant growth in its commitment to international education. The incoming freshman class has 29 students from other countries, including 16 students from China. About 6.5 percent of the class is international students, some coming from Japan, Myanmar, Vietnam, El Salvador, Bosnia, Nigeria and Brazil. Students from 25 states are on campus, including students from Hawaii, Iowa, Texas and Michigan. The percentage of incoming students of color and international minority groups is 14 percent.

The incoming class is well represented locally, with 14 students from Huntingdon High School and 95 coming from Huntingdon County and the 12-county region surrounding Juniata.

Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.