At a time in which colleges and universities across the country feared declining enrollment, Alma College’s fall 2020 incoming class remained stable, in large part due to a growing partnership between its athletics and admissions offices.

Alma welcomed 434 new students for the 2020 semester, a figure that generally follows trends from the past two years. Among those new students, 308 — an increase of 50 from the previous year — intend to play a sport at the college. In total, 71 percent of the class intends to play a sport during their time at Alma, which is a new record.


In addition to being a historically large class for athletic involvement, this year’s incoming class is breaking a record previously set in 2019 for being the most diverse in Alma College’s 134-year history. The fall 2019 class saw 18 percent of students identify as coming from a racially or ethnically diverse background; this year’s mark is 20.5 percent.


“This marks a consistent trend and adds to the diversity we hope to achieve at the college,” Alma College President Jeff Abernathy said. “This is not just a ‘point in time’ — this is something we’ve been working toward for the past several years, through strategies like the Detroit Future and the Detroit Promise programs, and we will continue to build on it for years to come.


“I’m delighted to welcome this year’s class of students,” Abernathy continued. “They are resilient, focused and determined to have a great college career, which is starting out amid some challenging circumstances. I can’t wait to see what they do moving forward.”


Sarah Dehring, athletics director, credited the college’s coaching staff, as well as the admissions staff led by Amanda Slenski, vice president for admissions, for the historic number of new student-athletes at Alma.


“Every year, I meet with our coaches, as well as Amanda, to discuss what’s possible and what our goals are for the coming year as far as enrollment is concerned. This year, we were able to meet our goals, and in a few sports, we were able to exceed it. Our coaches, and everyone else in athletics, are willing to do what it takes to help the college as a whole,” Dehring said.


She added that it’s equally important to retain student-athletes who are already at the college. The college’s overall enrollment for 2020-21 stands at 1,435, compared to 2019’s total of 1,442 — a small drop that she said could have been much higher were it not for extraordinary communications efforts taken on due to the pandemic.


“Every coach, when they’re talking to each student-athlete, is taking an incredibly personalized approach to that interaction,” Dehring said. “They’re talking about everything from their role on the team to how their studies are going, because education always comes first. Students who come here know that going in, and as a result, we don’t see many leave.”


Slenski echoed Dehring’s comments with respect to the personalized approach each potential new student receives when they visit Alma College.


“The communication and collaborative relationship between our offices is something other colleges and universities strive to attain, and our college benefits so much from that,” Slenski said. “I’m proud of the results of our work together and look forward to building on our positive momentum for years to come.”


The fall 2020 incoming class features students from 15 states, including those from as far away as Alaska and California, and 13 countries. In total, 13 percent of the class hails from outside of Michigan.


Pre-health professions is the most-common academic focus for the fall 2020 incoming class, at 21 percent of all students. Sciences, including biology, chemistry, physics and environmental studies, are next at 11 percent, followed by education, at 9 percent.

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