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/news-events/news-archive/2015/

Widener Welcomes Largest Ever Freshman Class

Members of Widener's largest ever freshman class await their turn to touch the Pride statue for good luck, a tradition at the university.

Widener University this fall welcomed the largest freshman class in the 194-year history of the institution, with 846 freshmen enrolled. In addition, more freshmen from last year’s class came back to Widener for their sophomore year as the retention rate rose nearly two percent to 78 percent, the highest retention rate in more than 10 years.

The overall university enrollment is up about four percent from 5,985 in 2014 to 6,218 in 2015. Widener’s previous largest freshman class was 827 in 2013.

Widener University Interim President Stephen C. Wilhite attributed the largest freshman class and overall enrollment increase to a number of factors including the university’s growing national reputation for civic engagement, leadership development and high-impact educational practices and the growth of online programs at the graduate level.

“We also recently completed the largest fundraising campaign in the university’s history which has helped transform the campus and fund important teaching and learning initiatives,” Wilhite said. “All these factors are leading to higher quality academic and campus life experiences for our students.”

The largest area of enrollment growth is in online programs. Last year, the university launched online master of social work, master of business administration, and registered nurse to bachelor of science in nursing programs. Enrollment in graduate programs offered through the university’s main campus in Chester, is up more than 240 students, with much of this increase attributable to online programs, especially the master of social work program.

Widener’s efforts to improve student retention, including new software to track students’ academic progress and identify potential issues, are continuing to pay dividends. The 78 percent retention rate is up seven percent over the past three years. Increased retention typically translates into a higher graduation rate.

Widener University is a metropolitan university that connects curricula to social issues through civic engagement. Dynamic teaching, active scholarship, personal attention, leadership development and experiential learning are key components of the Widener experience. A comprehensive doctorate-granting university, Widener is comprised of eight schools and colleges that offer liberal arts and sciences, professional and pre-professional curricula leading to associate’s, baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral degrees. The university’s campuses in Chester, Exton and Harrisburg, Pa., and Wilmington, Del., serve more than 6,200 students. Widener is proud to be a tobacco-free university. Visit the university’s website, www.widener.edu.


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