Student Life Editor
With the fall semester underway, Keene State campus is once again full of life. This semester the college is seeing an increase in enrolled students, with the number of new first-year students coming in at 779, compared to the 754 new students who were enrolled in September of last year.
During the Fall 2020 semester, colleges and universities across the nation saw a similar trend in their enrollments. “Many regional public schools didn’t lose students to other colleges; many students didn’t choose to go to college last year,” said Dr. MB Lufkin, Vice President of Enrollment and Student Engagement at Keene when asked about the shift in enrollment numbers. The increased number of classes being taught remotely, paired with tighter restrictions and higher risks brought on by COVID-19 resulted in many students choosing not to go to school at all, a change from previous dips in enrollment in which Keene lost students to competing schools in the area.
Another area in which the college has seen an influx of new enrollments is in students transferring from other schools. About 120 transfer students enrolled at Keene this fall, again an increase from last year. “I think it’s really a testament to how well we handled COVID last year and the fact that we were in session the whole year and students stayed on campus,” Dr. Lufkin stated in response to why more students have decided to switch schools. According to Dr. Lufkin, the feeling of normalcy that accompanies the return to campus is becoming increasingly important for students, and last year’s successes in fighting the virus has given Keene an edge over some other schools in the region.
What might be a more noticeable change for those on campus is the shift from remote learning to in-person classes. Last year the college saw over 200 students accessing their classes remotely either from home or on-campus from their dorm rooms. This semester, although many classes are offering hybrid learning for students who may test positive or exhibit symptoms, less than a dozen students, all of whom have extenuat
ing circumstances, are committed to fully online classes. This, along with an increase of about 100 more students living in the residence halls compared to last year, has led to what feels like a return to normal as Appian Way once again fills with students between class periods, and the Dining Commons teams with people eating in rather than carrying their meals out.
With many more students attending their classes in-person, one question that arises is whether this will prove to be a challenge for those tasked with managing the spread of COVID on campus. Although there are more students than last year, Dr. Lufkin doesn’t foresee increased attendance being a problem. “Right around 3,200 to 3,400 students, we are at a sweet spot in terms of capacity. We still have available spaces in the residence halls and enough classrooms to keep everyone together and engaged in classes while staying safe.” For most members of the school’s leadership, the number of students is more exciting than it is worrying. Keene State President Melinda Treadwell offered her perspective on the higher enrollment numbers: “What I think it presents for us are great opportunities. More student clubs, more student organizations…I don’t see any real challenges, I see lots of opportunities.”
Students on campus echoed this sentiment during the Involvement Fair on Friday, September 10, as they explored the many clubs and organizations around campus. Alex Bridges, a Freshman at Keene, was excited to get involved with the KSC Golf Club, calling it “the best Golf Club around.”
Even with challenges presented by COVID, the KSC community has shown an ability to step up and meet the challenge, with continued weekly testings, contact tracing, mandatory masking indoors, and enforced social distancing during classes and in dining areas. These protective measures have resulted in a promising start to the semester, and a hopeful outlook moving forward for students and faculty alike.
Gabriel Schatz can be contacted at
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