Converse College enthusiastically welcomes nearly 300 new undergraduate students to campus this week – a 15% increase over last year’s incoming class that sets a new 25-year enrollment record for the fourth consecutive year. As new students and their families arrived on campus, they were greeted by faculty and staff members who unloaded their cars and carried belongings into residence halls. Purple, gold and pink panther items ruled the day, as the Converse community spirit was palpable.
Thanks to the large incoming class and strong retention (83% of all underclassmen are returning), Converse expects 750 full-time undergraduate students and around 835 total undergraduate students. This is a 25% increase in full-time students over the last five years. Campus housing is filled to capacity with approximately 600 residential students, thanks to the addition of nearly 100 new beds in the renovated Pell Hall.
The growth and visibility stems from Converse’s commitment to cultivate the distinctive voice of each student, to add value through the highest quality educational experience and an affordable cost, and to realize its vision for preparing students to effect positive change in the world. In addition to addressing the spiraling cost of higher education by reducing undergraduate tuition by 43% this year, Converse awarded over $1.2 million in scholarships to incoming students through the use of endowed scholarship funds. Alumni and friends responded enthusiastically to this bold move by supporting the College with a 20% increase in total gifts over the previous fiscal year.
The campus continues its 125th anniversary celebration with not only enrollment records, but also the opening of the new Marsha H. Gibbs Field House and the newly-renovated historic Pell and Dexter Halls.
The 14,000 square-foot field house was built in response to tremendous growth of the Converse Valkyries Athletic Program over the last decade, and is funded in part by a $2.5 million lead gift from Jimmy Gibbs and his wife, Converse Trustee Marsha Gibbs. Converse has doubled its number of sports programs over the last decade (from 5 to 10), quadrupled its number of student-athletes (from 37 to 169), and is the only women’s college in the nation competing at the NCAA Division II level.
The 123-year-old Pell Hall has been renovated to preserve the historic beauty of the building, including the stained glass tower windows, wide floor planks, ceiling beams and beaded board wall coverings, as well as surprise architectural elements like brick archways that were uncovered during demolition. The floor plan was redesigned as a “living community,” with living areas, study spaces and common outdoor spaces that facilitate student connections and are a key component of the College’s new First Year Experience. The $11 million project includes renovations to neighboring Dexter Hall, including a new roof, columned front porch, elevator, windows and central energy plant.