Academic spotlight shines on Goucher College: Improvement and promotion have helped the Towson school recruit its top incoming class. Officials note the school "is on a roll" into the 21st century.

September 04, 1997|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

As part of an ambitious growth plan that includes aggressive recruiting and high-powered instructors, Goucher College this year has attracted the biggest, smartest freshman class in its 113-year history.

The 340-student Class of 2001 boasts a belly dancer, a kick boxer, an actor on Nickelodeon's "The Adventures of Pete and Pete," a nationally ranked tennis player, Eleanor Roosevelt's great-granddaughter and scores of other achievers.

And when the 78 men and 262 women from 34 states and eight foreign countries start classes today, they will continue the Towson liberal arts college's push to position itself for an expanded role in the 21st century.

"Goucher over the years has become a stronger institution with increased visibility," said Barbara Fritze, vice president for enrollment management. "Goucher is on a roll."

College officials say an aggressive marketing strategy, more merit scholarships and increased public awareness led to the 26.5 percent leap over last year's freshman class of 268 students.

While Western Maryland College in Westminster also is experiencing unprecedented freshmen growth, other local private colleges, such as Loyola College and the Johns Hopkins University, are purposely keeping their incoming numbers steady, though applications have increased.

"We'd like to keep our enrollment where it is," said Leslie Wilson, assistant director of public relations at Loyola, which has 848 freshmen this year. "It is a tightly controlled number."

But Goucher has taken a different tack.

The former all-women's college rebounded from an enrollment drop in the 1980s by becoming co-educational in 1986. And it recently reached a $40 million capital campaign goal and is undergoing a multimillion-dollar construction overhaul to renovate aging buildings and infrastructure.

Popular programs

Goucher's graduate programs also are booming.

For example, a master of education program for certified teachers has grown in five years from 30 students to 120. Another area of study, a master of arts in historic preservation, has jumped from 15 students three years ago to 45 this semester.

With a current undergraduate student body of 1,100, Goucher has room for 100 more undergraduate students before reaching capacity, officials said.

As for growth after that, Goucher President Judy Jolley Mohraz said, "That's a question we will deliberate in the next couple of years. We've got some space to give us latitude."

This year's number of applications took Goucher by surprise, she said. The college received 1,765 applications, a 48 percent jump over last year's 1,190.

"They were so qualified," she said. "We took a careful look at the capacity of the college and whether we could respond to the students and not change the character of the personal focus of Goucher and thought we could."

The new freshman class boasts a combined average SAT score of 1180 and average grade point average of 3.2, making it one of the strongest academically in a decade.

"It is rare for a college to both simultaneously increase in size and increase in quality," Mohraz said. "There is a recognition that a student-centered undergraduate education is precious and is worth the investment."

The cost for two semesters plus room and board at Goucher is $25,435.

Freshman William Kapner, 18, of Akron, Pa., said he was attending Goucher because "it was the best school I got accepted to. When I read about it, I said, 'Wow.' "

'I like the campus'

Lara Santos, 18, of Puerto Rico, who arrived on campus Friday with her mother, Nilda Santos, and cousin, Olga Olazabal, said she picked Goucher because of recommendations by a high school counselor.

"I like the campus. I like the university," she said enthusiastically.

The shady, secluded, 300-acre campus off Dulaney Valley Road is only a short distance from the county seat's busy business district and numerous restaurants and shops.

College officials said a positive report in "Colleges That Change Lives," a book published last year by Loren Pope, director of the College Placement Bureau, was a boost.

In the book, Pope wrote, "[Goucher] is now one of the best-kept secrets among the top-quality coed colleges."

Mohraz also points to the achievements of students and regular and visiting faculty.

The college has lured Taylor Branch, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Parting the Waters," to teach two classes in the spring.

And junior Jenn Crowell, who received critical acclaim for her first novel, "Necessary Madness," continues to be a positive role model for fellow students, she said.

Also, the college has increased its focus on international studies, including fellowships and academic trips to other countries, said Robert S. Welch, the college's vice president and academic dean.

Joseph Johnston, vice president of programs for the Association of American Colleges and Universities in Washington, said Goucher is a leader in the field.

"They help students learn more about the larger world."

Goucher College

1885: The Rev. John Franklin Goucher founds Women's College of Baltimore City downtown.

1910: Renamed Goucher College after its founder.

1921: College's trustees begin preparations to move the campus to a 421-acre tract in Towson.

1953: Delayed by the Depression and World War II, the move to the Towson campus is completed.

1986: Goucher becomes coeducational.

Today: Goucher College offers majors in 18 departments and five interdisciplinary areas, as well as a master of education degree program.

Pub Date: 9/04/97

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