Simpson’s enrollment a 3-time record-breaker

by Matt Bower

Boasting a record-breaking enrollment of 2,035 students this semester, Simpson broke the 2,000 mark for the first time in the school’s history and attained its highest enrollment ever.

“I think it’s terrific,” President John Byrd said. “It demonstrates a long-term escalation of enrollments and improvements of enrollments over the last decade here.”

Byrd said the record enrollment reflects two things.

“One is a growing appreciation for Simpson College by more and more people who want to come here,” Byrd said. “Secondly, the record enrollment was caused in part by a record retention of last year’s freshman class returning this fall. That’s very much reflective of an improvement in all the programs we have that help keep students here once they enroll.”

Jim Thorius, vice president for student development, said retention is a by-product of the student services Simpson provides.

“The faculty, staff, administration and students are working hard to provide a high-quality experience for first-year students,” Thorius said. “We consciously try and listen to students, faculty and others involved in the program to see what we can continue to do to strive toward excellence.”

Thorius stressed the importance of never giving up on improving student enrollment.

“It’s an active process that we can’t ever stop, sit back and say we’ve achieved it,” Thorius said.

Simpson was again ranked eighth of comprehensive colleges in the Midwest by U.S. News and World Report. Byrd said this ranking, along with Simpson’s continued high enrollment, is a sign that the college has a good nationwide reputation.

“I think the enrollment is confirmation that we’re well thought of and that we do an excellent job of providing a wonderful education to our students,” Byrd said.

Junior Mindy Gerloff views the increasing enrollment as a positive sign for Simpson.

“The more students we have, the better … as long as we have enough classrooms,” Gerloff said.

While bigger often means better, Byrd isn’t so quick to agree.

“I think the question of size is one that every institution needs to address seriously,” Byrd said.

He’s prepared to consider a wide range of factors as Simpson’s student body increases.

“As we continue to attract more students who want to come here, we need to think very deliberately about how large we want to be or if we want to use that extra demand to decide to be more selective, or to do a better job of improving diversity or the geographic reach of where our students come from,” Byrd said. “I think we really need to look at all of those things.”

According to Byrd, almost 1,500 of the 2,035 students make up the full-time residential population.

“I think that’s a great size for Simpson and I don’t believe it’s large enough in any way to detract from the small-college atmosphere we have here,” Byrd said.

Byrd said Simpson’s current student-body size is fine.

“You really can know a lot of your fellow students,” Byrd said. “You really can know many of your professors, and many professors really do get to know a lot of the students here, so I’m not at all alarmed about being at around 1,500 students for the traditional full-time residential population.”

Gerloff agreed. She said Simpson’s size is fine now, and it would take a significant increase in the student body for the school to lose it’s close-knit community.

“I don’t think it affects us now,” Gerloff said. “We would need to get a lot more students for that to happen.”

Byrd said he’s definitely interested in attracting a more diverse student body to Simpson but knows it won’t be an easy task.

“The biggest obstacle to achieving that goal is the fact that Iowa itself doesn’t support the most diverse population, which means we’re going to have to cast our net further out geographically,” Byrd said. “As we look to the future, we need to do a better job of attracting students from around the country as well as from around the Midwest.”