The oldest college in Wisconsin, Beloit College is one of the Colleges That Change Lives. It has been so for nearly 30 years. I hope that you will listen to my conversation with Erin Guth, Director of Recruitment to learn more.
Beloit College is a small school with less than 1,200 undergrads and no grad students. Nearly everyone lives on campus, including members of the three fraternities and three sororities that have houses. Beloit College has been test optional for some time. Like most of the Colleges That Change Lives, it is not ultra-selective. Sixty-two percent of the students who applied to join the Class of 2023 were accepted. They had an average GPA of 3.4, an average SAT of 1220 and an average ACT of 27, if they submitted scores. This appears to be a school where interviews and serious expressions of interest will matter more than the scores. Approximately half of Beloit College students come from outside the Midwest; about a fifth hail from outside the United States.
Beloit, Wisconsin, the college’s home since 1846, is noted as the “Gateway” to the state. Town and campus are located near the Wisconsin-Illinois border. If you can bring a car to campus you can drive to Chicago in two hours, Milwaukee in less than 90 minutes and get to Madison, aka ‘Mad Town’, in about an hour. Cross a footbridge and you can walk into downtown Beloit, a city truly trying to evolve from a “Rust Belt” business past. I realize that people in New Jersey might say “Oh, the Midwest is so isolated.” But I have visited small colleges in New England and Mid-Atlantic states that are more isolated from major cities than Beloit.
Beloit also has a fairly flexible curriculum. The college asks students to take only ten of their 32 courses outside of their major, plus a real-world experience and a capstone in the major. There are also several majors that you are not likely to find at other colleges of this size, including Data Science, Education and Journalism. Among the interesting niches is Museum Studies. Beloit might be the smallest college in the country that has two museums on campus. Beloit College is also a member of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, which opens some other options to students. This school also partners with the Great Lakes College Association to offer more student programs. If you are considering Beloit vs other Colleges That Change Lives, you will see some familiar names in that association.
Beloit extended proactivity into campus development. Last February the college dedicated a new student union and recreation center, ‘The Powerhouse’, an adaptive reuse of a former power generation plant. This is one of the most significant adaptive reuse and historic preservation projects on a college campus today.
In 2015 the college welcomed 392 freshmen. Seventy-four percent graduated on time. But four years later, before the pandemic, Beloit welcomed 259. Freshman retention slowly slipped. Eighty-eight percent of the freshmen who arrived in 2015 returned for their sophomore year. But over a fifth of the classes that arrived in 2017 and 2018 did not, and their first-year numbers were smaller. However, 90 percent of the Class of 2023 is back. But the class of 2024 has only 187 students. No doubt the pandemic can be blamed for the small freshman class. But the college also had to realize that its brand was fading, hence the Action Plan. To their credit, the students have updated their Statement of Culture to take shared responsibility during the pandemic, enabling the campus to be open this fall.
In 2019-20, the college met, on average, 95 percent of need. The average need-based scholarship covered over three-quarters of tuition. Merit-based awards averaged 70 percent. I doubt that I could walk across the Beloit College campus and bump into a student who did not have a scholarship. On average, graduates in the Class of 2019 who took out loans owed less than $24,000. That’s $3,000 less than the maximum they could have borrowed under the Federal Student Loan Program. It’s probably less than they would have owed if they went to Home State U.
So, we have a private school that takes college affordability quite seriously, knows its target students, and realized that it had to be proactive to rebuild its brand. I wish that more colleges were like this. But they have to have the people and the heart to make it all work. Apparently, Beloit College has both.
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Listen to my talk, College Is A Learning AND Living Community, hosted by Dr. Cynthia Colon from Destination YOUniversity on Voice of America Radio!
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