Last month on Oct. 21, 2017, the St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) Board of Trustees (the Board) met to consider the current state of the College and plans for the future. They discussed updates on the ongoing enrollment decline, stabilization in trends of retention rates, a new hire for enrollment, plans for the commemoration of the College’s relationship to slavery, an update to the master plan, renaming of the library and “very good” rankings, according to the meeting minutes.
Enrollment numbers, specifically in terms of incoming students, have continued to decline, as outlined in the September Point News article “Budget Blues: SMCM Addresses Low Enrollment.” The Board recognized the decline in their meeting minutes and outlined a vision to remedy the situation including marketing pushes and a new educational plan.
The meeting minutes state that with 1,517 students, SMCM is 305 students under their “undergrad goal” of 1,822 students. The current number of students enrolled is down by 70 from fall of the last calendar year. Additionally, according to the meeting minutes, the College is eight students under their “graduate goal” of 36 students. Both of these numbers are consistent with the downward trend shown over the past three years.
This school year, 1,653 people applied to attend SMCM. 1,364 of those applications were accepted, and 341 students enrolled. This equates to an 83 percent acceptance rate, a higher percentage than that of the previous three years.
The acceptance rate is on an upwards trajectory. In the fall of 2016, around 80 percent of applicants were accepted, and in 2015, approximately 79 percent. Comparatively, this is higher than other public schools in Maryland. According to US News, 57 percent of applicants were accepted at The University of Maryland Baltimore College, 48 percent at the University of Maryland in College Park and 74 percent at Towson University.
SMCM’s acceptance rate is slightly higher than other members of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC), such as the University of Mary Washington at 74 percent per US News and Ramapo College of New Jersey 53 percent.
The class of 2021 had a similar average GPA upon acceptance to the previous two classes. According to the Board minutes, the average high school GPA of the newest class of Seahawks was 3.33, two-hundredths of a point under the class of 2019, which averaged a 3.36.
Screenshot of various charts within the board meeting minutes. (Image courtesy of the Board of Trustees)According to the Board meeting minutes, the Admissions Office sets a goal of 25 percent of the student population fitting under the “All Minorities” label when looking at ethnicity. The incoming class had 27 percent of students fit that descriptor.
The minutes also remark that the College exceeded their goal in terms of first-generation college students.
Additionally, retention rates are reported to have stabilized amongst all students.
In order to address the College’s enrollment decline, David L. Hautanen, Jr. was brought on this summer as a vice president for enrollment management. The minutes from the Board meeting last month remark that Hautanen is “a highly experienced and respected” professional in his field of enrollment management. The minutes declare that Hautanen is working “to restructure the College’s admissions and financial aid policies, procedures, and structures to enhance the College’s ability to bring in Cohort 2018.” Furthermore, SMCM has identified consultants “to assist the College in our recruitment and marketing efforts, which includes financial assistance planning.”
Alongside new personnel, the College hopes to revitalize enrollment and applications with an “Honors College 2.0” plan. The minutes say that “The College will provide $710 thousand in one-time funds from the [Fiscal Year] 17 year-end surplus to support planning and development of the new educational master plan, recruiting, and marketing activity.” The Point News will report on this initiative as it develops.
The Board also discussed how to appropriately commemorate the College’s relationship with slavery. This discussion comes after the discovery of slavery-related artifacts at the location for the Jamie L. Robert Stadium Complex. To read more about this see “Remembering Our Past” in volume 77, issue number 11 of The Point News.
Rankings discussed at the board meeting include a US News report placing SMCM fifth out of seven public liberal arts colleges. The four preceding colleges are military institutions. Also, The Princeton Review placed SMCM within their top 380 colleges.
“In light of the recent archeological and archival discoveries,” the Board created a list of suggestions as to how to “best to commemorate the College’s relationship to slavery.” They include: the construction of “a contemplative memorial at the site of the recently discovered slave quarters near the soon-to-be constructed Jamie L. Roberts Stadium Complex,” “inclusion [of slavery-related topics] in the curriculum,” “develop[ment] of a center,” the “construction [of] a campus-wide walking path and tour, and “hav[ing] an annual celebration acknowledging our past and present.”
The Board also approved waiving the admissions fee to SMCM for residents of Puerto Rico, the removal of “the Willow Oak Tree located on the edge of Trinity Church Road across from the Lucille Clifton House” in the interest of pedestrian safety and the renaming of the Library Building to the “Hilda C. Landers Library.”
All of the aforementioned stories will be covered in greater detail as they come to fruition in the coming year.