Good thing we expanded Cassel Open Air Theatre. Doane College will need the extra room in four years when the class of 2016 stands shoulder-to-shoulder in Cassel for commencement. There are 337 new students and 62 transfer students at Doane's School of Arts and Sciences in Crete this fall.
Altogether, there are more than 80 additional students on campus compared to last year; over 80 more in the line for the coffeehouse, on the bleachers and the athletic fields.
The first-year students are the largest group of freshmen in Doane's 140-year history and a big piece of the college's record-breaking enrollment in 2012: Doane's School of Arts and Sciences has a total student population of 1,149 students, surpassing its old mark by nearly 8 percent.
Doane's freshmen are a big deal in more than numbers. Their average GPA is 3.49; as a group their mean ACT score came in at 23.37.
In President Jacque Carter's eyes, the growth follows an ideal expansion pace for the undergraduate campus. The college's strategic plan calls for the student population in Crete to reach 2,000 students over the next 10 years. "We need incremental, planned, managed growth such as this to maintain the quality and culture of our students' academic experience," Carter said. "Students come to Doane for great academic programs, small classes and personal attention, the chance to be challenged intellectually and to participate and take on leadership roles; for the lifelong friendships that form on a campus that feels like its own community. That won't change with growth," Carter said.
Doane will coordinate the growth with facility changes, faculty staffing, the budget and other considerations, he said, in order to not only ensure Doane survives, but prospers when other colleges and universities may fail. And doing so will place Doane in an enviable peer group.
"About 60 percent of national liberal arts colleges in the country have enrollments of more than 2,000 students and they are strong, still offering a personal experience, great academic programs and rich student life opportunities," he said.
Larger first-year classes such as the current group bring a new kind of energy to campus, said Joel Weyand, Vice President for Enrollment Services. He attributes the increased enrollment to reputation: "People want to be associated with a winner...From our science research, to faculty mentors, to international opportunities and winning athletic programs, Doane has the community and resources of a winner."
Fall enrollment numbers also remain strong at Doane's School of Graduate of Professional Studies in Lincoln and Grand Island.
Doane's long history is full of goals for growth that were attained. The first president placed a diploma in the hands of a Doane student in 1877 - one in a class of three.