By Richard Burnett
Despite the resurgent COVID-19 wave now hitting the country, Beacon College recorded its largest enrollment in history for the 2021-22 school year, admissions leaders say.
Beacon registrar Carrie Santaw confirmed that 441 students enrolled to attend Beacon in the fall semester, a 6.6% increase from fall 2020, according to the latest college figures. That number — eclipsing the college’s previous high-water mark of 427 — marks an uninterrupted nine-year expansion of Beacon’s enrollment, which has more than doubled since 2012.
Beacon’s closely managed enrollment growth has remained intact in the pandemic era even as college enrollment nationwide has declined year over year, falling 3.5% in the spring and 2.6% last fall, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
Now, as the Delta variant has fueled new COVID-19 cases across the country, the pandemic’s economic impact is also expected to weigh on general college enrollment this fall, CNBC reported last month.
Still, Beacon administrators in advance of the fall semester were cautiously confident the college would be able to sustain its growth trek despite the virus resurgence. The college has worked extensively to engage everyone — from students and staff to administrators — in following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for health and safety protections against COVID-19.
In addition to its COVID-19 crisis management, Beacon’s admissions team has advanced a comprehensive approach to increase its recruiting of students with learning differences from across the country. That approach includes everything from enhanced customized remote learning and online marketing to renovated campus facilities like the new Dining Commons.
Beacon also has put a major emphasis on helping students transition from high school to college — an effort that has produced a portfolio of programs such as Navigator Prep, Summer for Success, and Beacon Foundations. Beacon offers these short-term courses, which include in-person and virtual instruction, to all high school students with learning differences who are preparing for their college years, many of whom eventually become Beacon students.
“That has played a big role in our effort to reach more students,” said Dale Herold, vice president of admissions management. “The short-term options have been very popular for families who understand the challenges of the transition to college for these students and who appreciate what our programs provide.”
In recent years, the college also has raised its profile nationally for academic excellence as the first in the nation accredited to award bachelor degrees exclusively to students with learning disabilities and ADHD. Last year, for example, U.S. News & World Report included Beacon for the first time in its annual Best Colleges regional rankings.
Such recognition has come from a combination of factors, including the college’s increased branding, savvy use of virtual channels, and increased word of mouth in academic circles, Herold said. But the bottom line is still the college’s focus on the students, she said.
“It has just been so uplifting to see all of this come together, to see the results of our efforts in terms of the growth of the college, and to see the students grow from the time they arrive on campus to graduation,” she added. “They are clearly so much more confident, intellectually and emotionally, and have a brighter hope for their future.”