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As Lycoming College celebrates its bicentennial, President Dr. James E. Douthat opened the 2011-12 academic year by highlighting a sizeable incoming class, outstanding retention and a very favorable accreditation review during his State of the College address on Tuesday, Aug. 23.
The College's Class of 2015 features approximately 418 first-time students and 42 transfers. They come from all corners of the United States and 10 foreign countries, including Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Vietnam and China. The class has 15 valedictorians and salutatorians and many other students in the top percentiles of their high school classes.
"Equally exciting is the retention rate of our rising sophomores," said Douthat, who is in his 22nd year as the College's president. "We have two admissions goals at Lycoming. One is to continue to attract very good students. The other is to work with them to celebrate their graduation within four years. Preliminary retention figures for rising sophomores this year exceed 85 percent, which is a remarkable level of accomplishment on any campus in the country."
Douthat acknowledged that the robust enrollment and high retention numbers are driven by the combined efforts of the entire campus. He added that the solid enrollment also is a result of the thousands of alumni and friends who support the College financially, creating not only special programs and opportunities with their gifts, but underpinning millions of dollars in institutional financial aid.
Douthat explained that even in this incredibly difficult economy, Lycoming ended the 2010-11 fiscal year with more than $160 million in endowment funds under management. He said that despite tight operational budgets and cuts to the federal work-study program, the College must continue to meet the needs of its current students while preparing for the growing needs of students to come.
"These are interesting times with interesting challenges for all of higher education," Douthat told the faculty and staff. "Lycoming is very fortunate to have a strong student base. Good fortune is always more likely to arrive if it is backed by hard work and preparation."
This summer, Lycoming received the formal response from its Middle States accreditation review. Douthat announced that the College had met all 14 standards for reaccreditation and was fully reaccredited.
"The financing of higher education is changing . . . driven in part by reductions in state and federal support for students at the same time that high unemployment and concerns about taking on more debt drive down the ability of families to pay for college," said Douthat. "For those reasons and others, the expenses side of higher education is also changing."
As for Lycoming, in such times of change, Douthat spoke of great challenges and great opportunities ahead.
"Our faculty and our board of trustees have already committed to a comprehensive review of our core curriculum, a task to be completed by academic year 2014-15," said Douthat. "What better place to start that review than through strengthening the ways we assess what we do. The challenge ahead is great, but Lycoming College is in a very strong position to ensure its future for at least another 200 years."
Founded in 1812 and celebrating its bicentennial during the 2011-12 academic year, Lycoming College is a national liberal arts and sciences school dedicated to the undergraduate education of 1,400 students. It offers 35 academic majors and is recognized as a Tier 1 institution by U.S. News and World Report. Located near the banks of the Susquehanna River in Williamsport, Pa., Lycoming is one of the 50 oldest colleges in the nation.