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Freshman, legacy enrollment rises at Bethel

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College saw an increase in enrollment of both first-time freshman students and legacy students this fall.

First-time freshman numbers went from 108 in fall 2007 to 119 in fall 2008, a 10.2 percent increase. The class of 2012 has a National Merit finalist, 14 valedictorians and one salutatorian, with 26 percent coming from the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class, reported Vice President of Admissions Allan Bartel.

“The class coming in is very strong, with more than twice as many President’s Scholars as last year – 25 as compared to 11 in 2007,” he said. The President’s Scholarship is Bethel’s second-highest academic award. (There were five Founders Scholars, the highest award, up from four last year.) Twelve first-year students – triple last year’s number – are Service Learning Scholarship awardees who will work in non-profit agencies in the North Newton and Newton communities.

“This represents our third straight year of increased first-time freshman enrollment,” Bartel added.

Fifty-nine first-time freshmen – up by 17 – are legacy students, meaning they had parents, grandparents and/or siblings attend Bethel.

There are 83 first-time freshmen from Kansas, representing 40 high schools. New students (including transfers) also come from Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas. Countries represented are Bangladesh, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Kenya, Mexico, Nepal, the Republic of Moldova, Rwanda and Tanzania. There are also two students who came from Germany as part of Bethel’s historic exchange with the Bergische Universität in Wuppertal.

While enrollment numbers are up in the top two priority recruitment segments, overall enrollment at Bethel is down, holding at 500 compared to 541 in fall 2007. The biggest drop came in transfer numbers, down from a record 95 in 2007 to 51.

“We are assessing the various factors contributing to the decrease in transfer students in order to strengthen our recruitment strategies,” said Bartel.

This fall’s numbers represent a retention rate of 83 percent of the students who were on campus last spring, excluding those who graduated.

“We are very pleased that our first-year freshman numbers are up for the third year in a row,” said Bethel College President Barry C. Bartel. “This is the main target of our recruitment.

“The academic caliber of the incoming class meant increased awarding of our top three academic scholarships, resulting in a higher tuition discount,” he added. “We are working to address the decrease in enrollment revenue and increase in tuition discount in the context of a national economic downturn.”

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the only Kansas private college to be ranked in’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at

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