According to administrators, this year’s group of entering students at LaGrange College—including freshmen, transfers and graduate students—set a record at the United Methodist-related school.
New incoming students across all categories now number 435, topping the 426 that enrolled in 2006. When numbers are finalized over the course of the next week, college officials also hope to have a record number of first-year students. That record stands at 267, and also was set in 2006, the year that the college began its football program.
“It has been especially exciting to see students moving in this year, and to observe all of the activity that comes with such a large group of young men and women arriving to pursue their dreams,” said college President Dan McAlexander.
He attributes the large group to several factors.
“We believe prospective students are hearing about the quality of the living and learning experience here,” he said, “and about the outcomes our graduates experience. By the time they crossed the commencement platform this spring, 70 percent of our Class of 2013 had accepted a job or graduate school offer, well above the often-cited 50 percent national rate.
“Also, our team of admissions and financial aid professionals has been working very hard and very creatively under the leadership of Vice President for External Relations Will Jones.”
First-year student Lauren Venters from Carrollton says LaGrange was the ideal location for her, and that the close-knit feeling of the campus community attracted her instantly.
“I love the family atmosphere at the college,” she said. “In my first few days, I’ve already experienced that from professors who say, ‘Come by my office after class, and we’ll take care of this. Don’t stress out about it.’”
Freshman Matthew Crawford from Thomaston says he’s also experienced the personal atmosphere at LaGrange College.
“I’ve been on campus less than 10 days, and the president of the college already knows me by name—in a good way,” he said. “You could never get that feeling at a larger institution.
“I am majoring in biology and plan on attending vet school at UGA. I know the academics here are strong enough to get me into vet school. I talked to UGA before deciding to come, and they said they have had several kids from LaGrange who’ve done very well.”
Crawford also was attracted by the college’s Study Away Commitment, which provides first-year students a $2,500 voucher for a study/travel experience their junior or senior year.
“I definitely plan to study abroad,” he said. “I want to go to Europe sometime while I’m here.”
Reaching potential students with the college’s story is the result of some very intentional work on the part of the admissions and financial aid departments, supervised by Joseph Miller, who has served as LaGrange’s dean of enrollment management for just more than a year.
He says his team has been putting emphasis on the school’s strengths and its robust scholarship programs.
“Many students have chosen us because of the value of what we offer with our study-abroad and servant-leadership programs, plus the generosity of our financial aid awards,” he said. “Because we can bring together institutional scholarships and grants, plus federal and state aid—including HOPE—we can often provide a financial aid package the makes LaGrange as affordable as or sometimes even more affordable than a public state university.”
He says transfer students who didn’t find a “fit” at their first institution are calling the Hill home in larger numbers. The college expects to enroll a record number of 86 new transfers this fall, beating a record also set in 2006.
In addition, he attributes this year’s record crop of enrollees to a growing number of out-of-state students, especially from Alabama and Florida.
“This year, we have twice as many freshmen from those two states,” he said.
A four-year liberal arts and sciences college affiliated with the United Methodist Church, LaGrange College is consistently ranked in the top 10 among Southern schools by U.S.News & World Report. It is the oldest private institution of higher learning in Georgia and has an enrollment of more than 900 students.
Pictured at top are Daniele Gravett, left, and Lindsey Cole exploring campus and community opportunities at the Fair on the Hill the day before classes began.