Small Liberal Arts College Defies Economy and Attracts Most Diverse Class


Bethlehem, Pa., September 30, 2009—Moravian College, a small selective liberal arts college in Bethlehem, Pa., has realized an admissions milestone in the face of a down economy and shifting demographics­—20% of its freshman class are from historically under-represented groups. The College enrolled 379 freshmen making the Class of 2013 the fifth-largest and most diverse class in the College’s 267-year history.  
Before the economic downturn last year, Moravian began an aggressive outreach program to attract more students from historically under-represented groups to the College. Admissions counselors, coaches, and others participated in the recruiting process. “The effort resonated with guidance counselors, students, and their families—the message was that Moravian was serious about increasing diversity among under-represented groups and first-generation students, and that Moravian is accessible to quality students of all backgrounds,” said Bernard Story, vice-president for enrollment at Moravian.
With 20% of the class of 2013 coming from underrepresented groups, Moravian among the top of four-year private colleges.  “We were ahead of the curve last year compared to  similar colleges in attracting these students,” Story explained. 
In 2008 Moravian College embarked on an initiative to discover and develop a more diverse student body as part of its 7-year strategic plan. “Our goal was to increase the percentage of students from underrepresented groups by one percent each year until we reached 15%” Story noted. “The fact that we surpassed our previous mark of 11% in this financial environment is quite astonishing actually.”
Story directed a great deal of credit to Angie Colon, Moravian’s coordinator of multicultural outreach who runs the MVP Program (Multi-Cultural Visit Program). The program brings students from New York and Philadelphia to campus to experience what college would be like by visiting classrooms, meeting with faculty and students, and staying overnight.
As a result of programs like MVP, Moravian’s applicant pool included more students of diverse ethnic, social economic backgrounds and more first-generations students. “ “The pool more closely mirrored the demographic shift among those seeking higher education,” explained Story.
Moravian‘s efforts to diversify its student body has had a financial impact on the bottom line.  The college has increased its tuition discount rate by 3% and utilized $1.3 million in contingency funds to enroll the class of 2013. Because of its long-held tradition of educating first-generation students and valuing diversity, Moravian established the Heritage Grant to increase financial aid for low-income students.
“Moravian realized a perfect storm. We had a large number of students who wanted to go to college, the ability to attract them, and then help them financially in a tough economic environment, which resulted in our dramatic increase in diversity,” Story noted. “What is even more remarkable, Moravian relies heavily on tuition revenue to fund its operation. The fact that we built a contingency fund enabled us to attract and enroll the class.
“We are already hearing compliments from faculty members about the quality of the students,” Story noted proudly.  “The class most closely resembles the one we have always envisioned at Moravian, one that is both academically strong and diverse.
“Moravian’s strategic plan and demonstrated ability to enroll students with a lower economic status gave us the fortitude to pursue the ambitious goal; however, the lofty numbers may not be sustainable,” Story said. “We will not be able to replicate this year’s success in subsequent years.  Our plan moving forward is to meet our targets, but not exceed them to the extent we did this year, unless we are able to become less tuition-dependent by generating revenues in other areas such as investments and fund raising. We may recalculate our targets based on the changing circumstances.”
Other notable characteristics of the Class of 2013 include:
·         Over 250 community service projects were conducted by members of the class over the course of their high school career
·         32 percent of the class are expected to choose a major in the natural sciences
·         Nearly one-third of the class are members of the National Honor Society
·         Over one-third of the class are first generation college-bound
Moravian College is a private, coeducational, selective liberal arts college located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Tracing its founding to 1742, it is recognized as America’s sixth-oldest college. Visit the Web site at


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