The incoming freshman class at Transylvania University is expected to grow by 28 percent, reversing last year's downturn and giving the small school its most diverse class ever, President Owen Williams said Monday.
The entering class of 333 is up from 260 last year, and up 6 percent from the fall of 2010. It is expected to include 95 students from out of state — double the number from 2011 — while 12 percent identify themselves as minorities. In the fall of 2010, 10 percent of the freshman class were minority students.
The incoming class is expected to have an average ACT score of 27 out of 36, a slight increase from the year before.
President Owen Williams attributed the changes to a host of initiatives, including more sports offerings, targeted financial aid and better recruiting.
"This number is quite significant, not only in that it represents a great bounce back from last year, but it demonstrates the quality of the strategic plan we put in place," Williams said. "This would not have happened without the board, faculty staff and students ... the entire Transylvania community pulled together."
Since taking office in 2010, Williams has overseen land acquisitions in downtown aimed at improving and expanding the school's athletic facilities, including the addition of new playing fields along Fourth Street. Transy has added men and women's lacrosse and an equitation team to its athletic roster.
Brad Goan, dean of admissions, said the growing popularity of lacrosse has had an impact on recruitment.
"We had students saying, 'I won't look at Transy because I want college lacrosse for four years,'" he said.
In addition, Goan said his office has worked harder at attracting students from outside Kentucky, including the target areas of Cincinnati, Nashville, Dallas-Forth Worth and Washington, D.C.
The school has altered some of its financial aid strategies, Goan said. For example, Transylvania gives fine arts scholarships to students who practice their art at the school but may choose to major in another subject.
Transylvania costs about $41,000 per year, according to its Web site; Williams and Goan would not disclose its "discount rate," which factors in scholarships and other aid.
Williams credits the city of Lexington will being a large part of Transylvania's appeal because so few small, liberal arts schools are located in urban areas with lots of activities.
He has emphasized better outreach to the surrounding neighborhoods.
"Whereas we give a lot to the town, the town is also giving a lot to us," he said.
Transy also has instituted the "Pioneer Pledge" which guarantees graduation in four years, and an optional program that locks in tuition rates for those four years.
Goan said he expects next year's total enrollment to be about 1,100, compared to 1,110 in 2010-2011 and 1,029 this past school year.
Linda Blackford: lblackford@herald-leader and (859) 231-1359Twitter: @lbblackford