Like many other small liberal arts schools, Goucher has been suffering a notable decline in enrollment over the past few years. Much of this is due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused a significant decline in college enrollment overall, and led to smaller incoming classes in 2020 and 2021.
Vice President for Enrollment Management Jonathan Lindsay also points to Goucher’s decision in 2018 to discontinue a number of majors as turning off prospective students. Meanwhile, Jaclynne Hall ‘23, who works in the Admissions Office, said that although the college generally does a good job of attracting new students, it has a significant problem with retaining them.
Hall has been working in the Admissions Office for four years, and previously served as an Admissions Ambassador (tour guide). According to Hall, the official undergraduate enrollment rate has hovered around 1100 for the past few years, which is a significant drop from their pre-pandemic rate of 1400. Hall blames the school’s reduction of student and staff support services, and noted that departments such as the Study Abroad Office are now down to just a few overworked employees, hindering their ability to provide the support that students need.
Nevertheless, in spite of these severe challenges, both Goucher’s retention rates and the number of new students have risen slightly. For example, the Office of Admissions data shows the number of students reenrolling in Spring 2023 was 94%, an increase from 92% the previous year.
Lindsay attributes this to an improvement in coordination between the various student affairs-centered offices. Lindsay said that “as [he] arrived, the college was in the process of implementing and rolling out the Navigate platform, and that really allowed [the departments] to work in a more coordinated fashion.”
Lindsay said that Goucher is constantly thinking about what they could improve on in terms of attracting students. He personally thinks about this in regards to three groups of students: “traditional” first-year domestic students, international students, and transfer students. On the domestic side, Goucher has increased their outreach to local high schools, hosting specially organized events to show students from those schools around. In terms of international students, Goucher is promoting itself extensively, and has applications from more than 80 countries. As for transfer students, Lindsay’s focus is on speeding up the process of determining how many credits those students need to take to complete their Goucher education.