Years of broad effort to build Franklin & Marshall College's national profile and strengthen its academic resources and student aid budgets reached a dramatic milestone this week, when applications from prospective students surpassed the 7,000 mark for the first time in the school's 228-year history.
Thus far, F&M's Office of Admission has counted 7,025 applications from students seeking places in the next first-year class, an increase of 25 percent over the previous record of 5,632, set in 2008, and 28 percent more than last year's application total of 5,472.
"This is a landmark moment for Franklin & Marshall College. These unprecedented application numbers reflect our institution's growing appeal to superb students from the United States and around the world," President Daniel R. Porterfield said.
In fact, the growth in applications occurred across the board, with a 27 percent increase from domestic students and a 33 percent spike in international applicants. Meanwhile, applications from students attending private and public high schools also increased substantially, up approximately 29 and 25 percent, respectively. The College also attracted 25 percent more applications from students in the mid-Atlantic states and New England, and applications from all other regions of the country increased 33 percent.
The application surge reflects the transformational educational experience F&M provides, said Daniel Lugo, vice president for admission and financial aid, noting that in the past the College has been spotlighted in national media such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, and recognized by the nation's leading national rankings organizations, including U.S. News & World Report.
"Liberal arts colleges recruit by word of mouth -- by person to person discussion among students, college counselors, faculty, parents and admission staff. That's one reason I'm so inspired by this growth," Lugo said. "People we want talking about F&M are doing so -- and in rapidly growing numbers."
Also contributing to the record-breaking rise in applications is F&M's emergence as a national leader in the area of college access. It has launched a bold and innovative "recruiting revolution" focused on assembling the highest-quality student body possible, in the process doubling its financial aid budget to more than $44 million annually and raising the average of Pell Grant recipients in the last three entering classes to roughly 18 percent, up from a three-year average of 7 percent just five years ago.
At the same time, the College has reduced significantly the average student debt at graduation -- from $33,200 for the Class of 2012 to roughly $25,500 for the Class of 2015 -- through its three-year-old Student Loan Relief Program and other strategies to strengthen the aid packages that eligible students receive. Franklin & Marshall meets 100 percent of the institutionally determined financial need of every student for all four years on campus.
"It is gratifying to see our ongoing investments in growing need-based financial aid, recruiting and supporting outstanding faculty, increasing undergraduate research opportunities, expanding off-campus and international study programs, and enhancing our already distinctive College House System yielding such tremendous interest in the singular liberal arts education we offer," said Porterfield.
"I'm deeply grateful to our faculty, who are incredible educators, and to the tireless work of our colleagues in Admission and Financial Aid. This year's exceptional application results are a testament to them -- and to the enduring strength of this institution."
In recent years, F&M also has extended and enriched its relationships with a growing number of educational partners nationwide, organizations such as KIPP, the Posse Foundation, Noble, College Match, and College Advising Corps that promote college readiness and matriculation and create a pipeline for many high-achieving students for whom F&M is a great academic fit.
Director of Admission Julie Kerich, a 1981 alumna of F&M, said she is thrilled with this year's pool of applicants and believes the class entering this fall will be among the College's most accomplished.
"There are so many wonderful students applying this year, and many of them say they want to be here not only because of our academic reputation, but because we are a community of people who care about and support one another," Kerich said. "It's a challenge to choose from such a deep pool of candidates, but it is a challenge we welcome."
Additional reporting and writing by Kevin Burke