St. Mary’s College of Maryland projects it will meet enrollment and budget goals


File: St. Mary’s College (Bill O'Leary/Washington Post)

A year ago at this time, St. Mary’s College of Maryland was in turmoil. A second straight disappointing recruiting cycle rocked the public liberal arts college, forcing budget cuts and contributing to the abrupt departure of its president.

Now, a new freshman class is taking shape, and the college on the southern Maryland waterfront is awaiting the arrival of a new president. Recruiting and revenue projections have held steady.

“We’re not in budget trouble now,” Ian Newbould, interim president of St. Mary’s, said this week. “We’re not in numbers trouble. The turnaround is taking place. We’re tracking everything — new students and transfers — day by day. It’s continuing to build.”

Newbould said he budgeted conservatively to have 381 new first-year students by Labor Day. As of Friday, he said, the college counted 388 incoming freshmen and was expecting to add 25 or 30 more over the summer. “We’re hoping to be up over 400 students,” Newbould said.

The college also budgeted for 95 incoming transfer students, he said, and has so far drawn about 60, ahead of last year’s pace. “We’re hoping to break through the 95 as well,” he said.

These numbers do not quite add up to a robust enrollment rebound. Last fall the college had 1,859 students. Its freshman class of 384 was the smallest in 13 years. Typically the college aims to have 2,000 students and a freshman class well over 400.

In the past year, Newbould said, St. Mary’s has put a greater emphasis on transfer recruiting and on careful budgeting. It cut in-state tuition and fees 7 percent, to $13,824 for the coming school year, and it is competing now for students who still haven’t made up their minds.

“Over the summer, there’s a lot of business,” Newbould said. “There always is.” Some families are hunting for discounts. Colleges are trying to match or undercut offers from competitors. St. Mary’s, Newbould said, has “a little bit” of financial room to maneuver in this final round of wooing as it fills out its class. “Not a huge amount,” he said.

Newbould, a fill-in after Joseph R. Urgo left as president last year, will hand the reins over to Tuajuanda Jordan on July 1. Dean of arts and sciences at Lewis and Clark College in Oregon, Jordan was tapped in March to become the new St. Mary’s president.

A former Post education editor, Nick writes about college from the perspective of a father of three who will soon be buried in tuition bills.
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