Fall 2013 is a record-breaking term for Coe College.
The Cedar Rapids-based private institution has its largest full-time enrollment, with 1,338 students attending the school.
“It’s a great way to kick things off,” said David McInally, who began his term as Coe’s 15th president on July 1. “It makes me feel very fortunate to have arrived at Coe at a time when the college is hot and there’s a lot of momentum.”
This fall’s full-time enrollment has increased 2.6 percent over fall 2012, when 1,304 full-time students attended the school. That was a decline from the record-setting fall 2011, when 1,312 full-time students enrolled at Coe. The school’s total enrollment, which includes people attending Coe part time, is 1,420, up from 1,404 in fall 2012.
Expanding the student body has been a conscious effort said McInally, who characterized the student population as growing steadily for the past few years. Coe has made moves in response to the influx, including working to purchase and renovate a local fire station to use for student housing.
“I think one reason we’ve seen recent enrollment increases is because more prospective students know about Coe,” McInally said. “We’re still trying to recruit the same students we always have … We’re just fortunate that Coe is in greater demand.”
Julie Staker, dean of admissions for the college, attributed this year’s increase to an emphasis on having prospective students visit the campus, especially for overnight stays.
“They realize that we’re at their disposal if they choose to come here for four years,” she said. “I think that’s what makes a Coe a really unique place and you need to come here to feel it and to see it.”
Tuition increases have accompanied enrollment growth at Coe. For 2013-14, room and board, fees and full-time tuition total $43,590 per student, a 3.98 percent increase from 2012-13. The fact that more students than ever are opting to attend Coe is a testament to the school’s financial aid budget, which rose 7.9 percent from last year, McInally said.
“Most families can’t afford college without help,” he added. “The financial aid budget went up (more than the tuition) so students are able to still afford Coe.”
Both Staker and McInally said admission standards have remained high at Coe. This year’s freshman class has an average grade-point average of 3.63, down from the class of 2016’s 3.7. With a mean composite ACT score of 25.7, the class of 2017 bested their immediate predecessors who averaged 25.5 on the college-entrance exam.
McInally and others are working on a strategic plan that may include new initiatives or changes to existing programs to better meet the needs of the school’s expanding enrollment, but nothing specific has been put forth. The president said this year’s increase was small enough that the school could manage it.
In Staker’s words, Coe prides itself on having a “highly student-centered atmosphere” and McInally said the school is planning to retain its identity as enrollment grows.
“I think the college would have to grow quite a bit larger than it is now for it to lose that quality,” the president said. “We do not have plans for dramatic radical growth of the size of the college, at least in the foreseeable future.”