Chambersburg, Pa. — Less than five years after enacting a series of bold measures aimed at strengthening its financial position, Wilson College is growing and gaining national recognition for its programs, affordability and value for students and families, and overall quality of education.
In the 2018 U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges” guide released today, Wilson College is ranked fifth in the “best value” category among regional colleges in the North, and is rated 11th overall in the same classification. Wilson also was named a “best college for veterans,” ranking sixth in its classification.
In addition to the U.S. News & World Report college rankings, Wilson has been named one of the nation’s Colleges of Distinction for its “commitment and proven achievement” in four areas: engaged students, great teaching, vibrant community and successful outcomes.
Wilson has created a unique learning environment where students not only earn college degrees and valuable life experiences, but also participate in character-building first-year seminars, spring break service programs, interdisciplinary study, service learning programs, undergraduate research, study-abroad and internships in a collaborative academic environment, according to Colleges of Distinction, a consortium of member institutions formed in 2000.
“Being recognized by Colleges of Distinction not only honors the strong academic core that has always characterized Wilson, but also the exciting changes we’ve made on campus and in the student experience in recent years,” said Barbara K. Mistick, president of the 148-year-old liberal arts college.
The annual process of selecting the nation’s Colleges of Distinction requires that institutions adhere to the “four distinctions”—engaged students, great teaching, vibrant community and successful outcomes—and also includes a review of each institution’s freshman experience, as well as its general education program, strategic plan, alumni success and satisfaction levels, among others.
“Colleges of Distinction applauds Wilson College for pushing the envelope with its up-to-date curriculum, enriching the college experience with high-impact educational practices and providing every student with an education that stretches far beyond what’s typically required from an academic major,” said Tyson Schritter, chief operating officer for Colleges of Distinction.
According to Schritter, Colleges of Distinction is more than an annual ranking. “Our goal is to select the best schools that are 100 percent focused on the student experience and on producing the most well-rounded graduates who are prepared for a global society and economy,” he said.
Wilson’s enrollment has been growing steadily over the past five years and in fall 2016, the college had the largest enrollment in its then 147-year history, with a total of 1,098 students enrolled in all programs. This year, total enrollment increased by nearly 11 percent to 1,216 students. The largest gain was in the traditional undergraduate college, with a nearly 21 percent increase from 458 students last fall to 554 this year. Graduate programs grew by more than 11 percent, to 390 students enrolled in nine programs compared to 350 students in fall 2016.
“We are seeing the results of the Board of Trustees’ decision to adopt a series of visionary steps to make Wilson College more affordable and nimble in our ability to offer today’s students the programs and value they want from a college,” Mistick said.
Adopted in January 2013, the Wilson Today plan followed a period of review and evaluation by the Commission on Shaping the Future of Wilson College conducted to address more than 30 years of stagnant enrollment. The Board of Trustees approved a series of recommendations from Mistick aimed at rejuvenating the liberal arts institution by significantly increasing enrollment, strengthening programs and facilities, addressing issues of education cost and value, and ensuring financial sustainability in the future.
Specific measures included reducing tuition and establishing an innovative student debt buyback plan; strengthening existing majors and adding a number of new academic programs, including nursing and several graduate programs; making facilities and infrastructure improvements; and expanding coeducation across all programs.
The move to coeducation and the addition of programs are fueling Wilson’s growth, including graduate programs in education, healthcare, business and the arts, as well as the addition of undergraduate programs in nursing. One of Wilson’s fastest growing programs, nursing offers a number of different tracks to bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing, including the newest offering—the LPN-to-BSN—which provides an accelerated path for licensed practical nurses to earn a bachelor of science degree in nursing.
“We are now firmly on a path toward a more financially sustainable future,” Mistick said. “The changes occurring on campus—with new and updated facilities, new and expanded programs, a greater number of students and the addition of men’s athletics to our women’s teams—is gratifying and exciting. A stronger, more vibrant Wilson College benefits not only those who work and attend school here, but enhances the entire community, as well.”
CONTACT: Cathy Mentzer, Manager of Media Relations