Largest Freshman Class in Five Years Welcomed During New Student Week

Westminster College welcomed the largest freshman class in five years during New Student Week, Aug. 14-21.

President and Chief Transformation Officer Donald P. Lofe, Jr., officially greeted the Class of 2025 as well as a number of transfer students during New Student Convocation at 3 p.m. Aug. 14 on the Hill.

“At the risk of dating myself, 40-plus years ago, I walked through these very same Columns for the first time as a freshman,” Lofe told students. “But I assure you: My family and I shared the same emotions you are experiencing today.”

Convocation speaker Jorden E. Sanders, ’14, encouraged the new students to experience learning and embrace the many possibilities that Westminster makes possible for all.

The youngest of five sisters to graduate from the College, Sanders emphasized the number of visits she made to Westminster prior to enrolling as well as the many activities she participated in while a student at the College.

“Clearly, I’m a little obsessed with this place,” the Rutgers University doctoral student said with a smile.

Ceremonial participants included Freshman Respondents P.J. Bledsoe of Eldon, MO, and Kaitlyn Luebbering of Jefferson City, MO, as well as various faculty and staff members.

Dr. Paul Orscheln, Vice President of Enrollment Services, Marketing, and Strategic Communications, proudly informed the Class of 2025 that they are the largest class to walk through the Columns in five years.

At 217 freshmen, the historic, small liberal arts college witnessed a 25 percent increase over last year’s freshman enrollment and a 53 percent increase compared to 2019.

In a press release issued by the College on Aug. 19 concerning the positive news, Orscheln said that overall student enrollment, at just over 650 students, is up by 7 percent.

Orscheln added this increase is the result of student retention being at a five-year high.

Although nationwide trends generally show college enrollment is declining, Westminster may be an anomaly because of its small size and personalized student services added in 2020, Orscheln explained.

“When we look at our freshman-to-sophomore retention rate, which increased by more than 6 percent since last year, we know there is a link to the services offered by our Student Success Center,” Orscheln said.

The Center opened in September 2020 under the leadership of Dr. Ingrid Ilinca, Associate Dean of Student Success and Chief Retention Officer.

Services offered at the Center include academic advising and help with a number of skills, including time management and other competencies necessary for adjusting to college life.

Orscheln said that providing these services is part of Westminster’s unique approach to higher education, which is possible because of the College’s smaller size.

And while Westminster waived the ACT and SAT requirement throughout the last year and a half — like most colleges and universities during the pandemic — he said the College met or exceeded its enrollment goals for both student quality and diversity.

“This increase can be attributed to a number of factors, but especially our exceptional faculty and academic programs,” Orscheln reflected. “The personalized educational experience Westminster College provides students is unmatched.”

After Convocation, new students stayed busy in a number of activities, including mentor/student meetings, campus tours, The Leader Within and Westminster Seminar classes, presentations on campus safety, academic advising, and a WestMO Glo Party in the Quad.

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Sarah Rummel Backer

Sarah Rummel Backer is the Director of Media Relations and Senior Writer at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. A proud Westminster graduate, Sarah has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and strategic communications in the areas of higher education, medicine, agriculture, and the private business sector.