Linfield welcomes largest entering class in years

First Gen LuncheonReprinted with permission of the News-Register. By Starla Pointer, Aug. 19, 2019. Find more News-Register stories here.

Linfield College is expecting 532 new students to start classes later this month, the largest entering class in many years — and a result of comprehensive recruitment efforts involving everyone at the college, from professors to coaches to admission counselors to President Miles Davis.

This year’s entering class is about 38% larger than the group in 2018, said Scott Nelson, director of communications and marketing for the college. At the same time last year, the incoming class had 385 students and Linfield was looking at its fifth consecutive year of declining enrollment.

A 38% rise is remarkable in today’s climate, when opinions about higher education are changing and all schools are struggling to recruit students, Nelson said.

And coupled with that, Linfield’s retention rate also is up, he said. Some 85% of students who entered the college last year are returning. It’s the highest retention rate in many years, he said.

“We’re meeting students where they are and getting them what they need to be successful,” he said.

In addition, Linfield has one of the highest four-year graduation rates in Oregon, at 65.4%, according to the Chronicle for Higher Education. Only Lewis & Clark, the University of Portland and Willamette University have higher rates, while schools such as Reed, George Fox, Corban and all state universities have lower rates.

Linfield’s enhanced recruitment efforts were created to deal with a budget deficit caused by declining enrollment.

The school also trimmed its faculty by offering buyout packages to professors. Enough people accepted the packages that no other faculty reductions were necessary, Nelson said.

While there have been changes, he said, students will be able to get all the classes they need.

New programs such as the wine studies program and an interdisciplinary law, rights and justice major, plus activities such as a marching band, have helped attract students.

“But you can’t attribute such a big increase to any one program,” Nelson said, noting the athletic department has contributed greatly to the effort, as have all other sectors of the college.

He added Linfield is considering adding graduate programs and more adult-degree programs in the future to serve the needs of additional students.

Almost all the growth this year is on the main campus in McMinnville, Nelson said.

The nursing program in Portland was already full. Most students who go on to study nursing start on the McMinnville campus, concentrating on liberal arts studies for their first two years.

“We’re scrambling to make room here” for all the students who want to live on campus, he said. “It’s a great problem to have.”

According to data recorded on Aug. 8, the entering class includes about 468 freshmen and 64 transfers from other schools, such as Chemeketa Community College.

About 228 of them are first-generation college students. The First Gen group is 43% white, 34% Latino, 11% Asian, 6% multiracial, 3% black and 1% American Indian, plus one Pacific Islander student and 14 students whose race is unspecified.

Overall, about 212 of the new arrivals, or 40%, are students of color. About two-thirds are female, one-third male.

The majority, 61%, come from Oregon, with 19% from Washington, 9% from California, 4% from Hawaii and 2% from Alaska. The other 5% come from other states, including Maine and Texas, and other countries, including Japan and South Korea.

Nelson said 96% of Linfield’s students receive some sort of financial aid, such as scholarships, work study or loans. That is reflected in the entering group, as well.