Mercyhurst Class of 2014 ‘focused’ as economy drives tough choices

Mercyhurst College, which will welcome 675 traditional freshmen and 100 transfer students to its Erie campus this weekend, sees the economy as shaping the Class of 2014 in various ways.

“Generally speaking, this is a focused group of young people who, along with their families, have painstakingly considered quality, specific academic programs and financial aid packages in making their college selection,” said Vice President for Enrollment Dr. Michael Lyden. “They are not coming to school to leisurely explore their options. The economy has forced them to think of their futures and how best to get there.”

Specifically, Lyden said, Mercyhurst is witnessing fewer students selecting “undeclared” majors. On the flip side, the college’s premier programs are making significant gains, including a record 94 new intelligence studies majors, up from 80 last fall; and 45 new applied forensic science majors, up from 35 last year. Another noteworthy increase comes in sports medicine, a major that last year enrolled 13 freshmen compared to this year’s 34 new students.

Mercyhurst North East continues to grow. Its overall enrollment is expected to exceed 1050 and may break 1100 for the first time. The practical nursing and culinary arts programs have achieved noteworthy gains this year with the number of new students up more than 50 percent in each program. Registered nursing and criminal justice remain two of the more popular majors on campus as well.

“Students continue to recognize MNE as an affordable opportunity college, where they can either prepare for a career after two years of schooling or use as a stepping stone to a bachelor degree program,” said Travis Lindahl, MNE director of admissions.

Meanwhile, a story earlier this summer in The Chronicle of Higher Education cited the 2010 College Decision Impact Survey of high school seniors in noting that two-thirds of prospective applicants said the economy had “greatly” or “somewhat” influenced their college decision.

A consequence of the more serious-minded choices, Lyden suggested, is a higher SAT score among incoming Mercyhurst Erie students, up five points at 1079 from 1074 a year ago.

Meanwhile, at both the Erie campus and at Mercyhurst North East, admissions counselors saw a labor-intensive recruiting year, not the least of which stemmed from helping to produce creative financial aid packages for new students. Here again, the economy was a key driver.

“We have to give the credit in reaching our admissions goals this year to our admissions directors Chris Coons at Erie and Travis Lindahl at North East and their admissions staffs for shepherding this group through,” Lyden said. “The applicants required constant communication in ensuring that they were making the right choice and that they had financial aid packages that worked for them, something that families demand in today’s challenging economy.”

Move-in day for Mercyhurst newcomers is Saturday, Aug. 28. On Monday, Aug. 30, new students on the Erie campus will participate in the traditional Day of Service, volunteering at 19 sites across Erie County to perform more than 1,800 hours of community service in a single day. Classes begin Wednesday, Sept. 1.

At a glance
• Estimated total enrollment across all campuses: 4,400
• Estimated new student population across all campuses: 1,500
• New students on the Erie campus: 675 freshmen, 60 external transfers, 40 transfers from North East and satellite campuses
• New students at North East and satellite campuses: 500
• New adult students: 135
• New graduate students: 125
• Erie campus: Freshmen from 27 states and 19 countries, including Ghana, Australia, Vietnam and Serbia.
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