Bethany prepares to launch 175th academic year

BETHANY, W.Va. – Bethany College, West Virginia’s oldest degree-granting institution, begins its academic year in late August with a wide variety of events planned throughout the year, Bethany’s 175th anniversary.    

“The qualitative growth at Bethany speaks well to the people, academic and student-life programs, and recent overall progress of the College,” Bethany President Scott D. Miller said.  “Building on 175 years of rich tradition, classical, liberal arts programs, innovative partnerships, and a supportive residential environment, Bethany College continues to be extremely attractive to a national constituency. “

Bethany traces its origins to the founding of Buffalo Seminary at what was then Bethany, Virginia, in 1818, Miller said. The institution counts 1840 as its founding as a degree-granting college.  Located on a beautiful, historic, 1,300-acre campus of 45 buildings in the wooded foothills of the Allegheny Mountains 39 miles from Pittsburgh, Bethany enrolled 1,100 students (headcount) in 2013-14.  The College anticipates selectively growing the traditional population from its current level of approximately 800 to 900 by 2017. 

The College will welcome approximately 325 new students this year, including 280 freshmen and 30 transfers. Another 15 new graduate students will enroll in Bethany’s Master of Arts in Teaching program.  This year’s student body will include learners from 23 states and 11 foreign countries.  An additional 300 students enroll in continuing education programs each year through Bethany’s re-established Buffalo Seminary. 

The College was recently featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education for its focus on a student-centered learning environment. Bethany is the only private National Liberal Arts College in the state, and in recent years has received national recognition for quality and cost from U.S. News and World Report, Barron’s, Washington Monthly, Forbes, Princeton Review and Colleges of Distinction. Last year, the College was ranked seventh in the nation by U.S. News and World Report in the percentage of graduates to attend graduate school within one year of graduation.  

Bethany’s national reputation is a major reason that “Transformation Now!: The Campaign for Bethany College” has reached the $47 million mark in gifts and pledges, Miller said. Launched during the 2008-09 academic year, the campaign has a Phase I, five-year goal of $52 million for capital improvements, endowment and operations. The overall goal is to raise $68 million by 2019-20 to fully fund the College’s master plan, “Bethany 2020.”

“During these most difficult economic times, our alumni and friends have remained true to Bethany College,” Miller said. “While Bethany College has both historic and excellent facilities, its future depends on the ability to grow and serve the students of tomorrow.”

Miller stated that 100 percent of the Board of Trustees and the Alumni Council and approximately one third of the College’s alumni have contributed to the campaign. He added that there have been 3,211 donors to the campaign, including 1,100 new contributors. Thirty-eight percent of Bethany alumni have contributed to the campaign.  The endowment has grown to $53 million during the campaign – the best among private colleges in West Virginia.

One of the signature programs funded through private giving is Bethany’s Kalon Scholars Program. Open to incoming freshmen, the Kalon Leadership Scholarship is a competitive award based on leadership, character, service and academic performance. Candidates are chosen by College faculty and staff through an application process that includes an interview and an essay discussing the student’s leadership achievements.

Nine incoming students will receive the highly selective Kalon Leadership Scholarship this year. The Kalon Scholars include Emily Anderson of Wheeling, West Virginia; Alexis Archer of Kalkska, Michigan; Don Bierhals of Cabot, Pennsylvania; Alexandra Grumski of Sewickley, Pennsylvania; Abigail Kojsza of Wayne, West Virginia; Zachary Lowe of Jacksonville, Florida; Logan Montague of Avon Lake, Ohio; Maclaine Murad of Bridgeport, Ohio; and Taylor Sasak of Berea, Ohio.

 As Bethany prepared to celebrate its 175th anniversary, the College joined a small number of colleges and universities nationally to announce a tuition freeze for the 2014-15 academic year. The freeze will apply to all incoming and returning undergraduate students.

“Bethany recognizes that a college education is an investment in the future,” Dr. Miller said. “As we celebrate this milestone anniversary as the state’s oldest institution of higher learning, there is no better time to make a Bethany education more affordable.”

Bethany’s tuition is already far below that of similar institutions. The average cost of tuition and fees at a private institution is $30,094, while Bethany’s is $25,736.

The cost of a college education in the United States has been rising since the 1970s, Miller stated. According to The College Board, the average increase in tuition and fees for full-time students at private, nonprofit four-year institutions was 3.8 percent in 2012. More than 90 percent of Bethany students receive financial aid through scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study opportunities, Miller said.

Fall athletic teams will arrive on campus beginning August 13. Freshmen and transfer students will arrive on Thursday, August 21, with upperclass students arriving Sunday, August 24.  The College’s traditional Matriculation Ceremony for new students will be held Friday, August 22, at noon in the Tilock Amphitheater of the Pennington Quadrangle. Classes begin for all students on Monday, August 25.