Despite class size, new class looks to become involved on campus and in the community

By Ryan Schmit

First-year students prepare to meet President Messitte at Matriculation Convocation.
Photo courtesy of Ripon College.

Ripon College experienced a slight decline in the size of its first year class between the classes of 2022 and 2023: from 267 students last year to 221 this fall,which includes 13 transfer students.

However, there has not been much decline from the average first year class sizes over the last five years. The average class size of first years during that time period is in the 230 range.. Meanwhile, the Admissions Office admitted 2,016 students this year out of the 2,900 applications received.

“We are very interested in growth but it is a really challenging time at Admissions in general, in the profession because the demographics of 17 and 18 year olds are declining across the country,” said Jenn Machacek, Vice President for Enrollment.

The decline in the class sizes each year results from a variety of factors, said Christophor Ogle, Dean of Students. Students choose to withdraw from Ripon College for reasons including cost, a different academic focus such as a separate major, the distance from home, the college being the wrong fit for them, and being unsure of the direction they want to go, explained Ogle. However, Ripon has seen success in keeping students from withdrawing early on in the college experience, Ogle stated. This is shown by the one year cohort retention rate of the college ranging from 71 to 86 percent during the last decade, explained Michele Wittler, Dean of Faculty and Registrar.

Even though the size of the first year class has decreased, the college is recruiting more students not only from Wisconsin but outside of the state as well.

“Sixty-six percent of the students are from Wisconsin. That’s versus 70 percent last year. Wisconsin is a really important state for us to win in when we’re recruiting,” Machacek said.

Thirty-four percent of the students are from outside of the state in this year’s first-year class. They come from 16 different states. This is up from last year’s class, in which 10 states were represented.

“I think some of that has to do with the work of our coaches. They’re doing some really good work in identifying pockets across the country where students don’t have as many opportunities to play division three athletics. They’ve really zeroed in on those particular areas, which has gone over really well,” Machacek stated.

The success the college experiences with bringing students to the college starts with the recruiting efforts of the Admission’s Office.

“We spend a lot of time on the road in the fall visiting high schools and college fairs trying to connect with students with where they are at. During the entire year, whether it be the academic year or the summer, we are always encouraging students to come to the campus. For many students, it is multiple campus visit experiences that helps them make their decision overall. We are also helping them through the college search process in general so helping them through the college application process, through phone calls, emails, we are staying in constant communication and also really helping them with the financial aid process as well,” said Leigh Mlodzik, Dean of Admission.

Some students said they come to Ripon College due to the attention they receive from workers at Admissions and financial aid.

“My advisor, Hannah, was always super available. I have probably asked her a million questions and she was always ready to answer questions. I received a lot of mail from Ripon and the scholarship money Ripon offered me was really helpful. Private colleges were not an option for me before that because of my family income,” said Alanis Harris, a member of the class of 2023.

The college also incorporates students and faculty into recruitment as well.

“Students can be our biggest advocates. Students and their stories and telling prospective students about their experiences are really what make Ripon so special,” Mlodzik said.

Emails and letters are a common way for current students to reach out to prospective students and inform them of their experiences at Ripon College. “The many emails Admissions sent me were effective in recruiting and some of the others methods were very cute. They texted me after my first visit to see how I was doing and even sent little postcards. I thought that was very cute and showed that the college cared about the students,” said Lydia Ellis, a member of the class of 2023.

Despite the size of the first year class, several students have said they are excited to make an impact on the Ripon College campus and in the community. First-years Natalie Pakosz and Ben Chambers are looking forward to getting involved in environmental studies’ organizations such as EGOR and other organizations that are involved with their respective majors. Natalie Pakosz is a chem-bio major while Ben Chambers is an environmental studies and political science major.

“The class is very energetic and bright. We are looking for them to become big contributors to the campus. They have been a lot of fun to work with this past year,” Machacek said.