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(Beloit, WI) By Nick Crow, Gazette

Beloit College is welcoming its largest freshman class since 1974, thanks in part to better recruiting, a spokesman said.

Some 437 students arrived on campus Monday. That's a jump of more than 32 percent over first-year students enrolled last year. The college prefers using the adjective "first-year" because it's more gender inclusive.

"To me, the success this year shows that Beloit's popularity is growing and with good reason," said Robert Mirabile, vice president of enrollment at the college.

"We are a great college and are in demand in the marketplace. When a college is in demand, it is able to attract students and have a diverse composition of students and an exciting learning environment."

Mirabile, who was hired in March 2014, said the college's goal is to enroll between 350 and 400 first-year students. The total enrollment is 1,300 students.

Over the past five years, the entering class at Beloit has ranged from 299 students in 2014-15 to 333 students in 2010-11.

A healthy enrollment is critical for Beloit College because, like most colleges, the lion's share of Beloit's operating budget comes from net tuition revenue, Mirabile said.

The college has been operating for 169 years.

"It's absolutely critical that the revenue that we are generating from tuition covers operating costs of the college," he said.

Mirabile attributes the growth to a sharper focus on connecting prospective students and their parents with current students, faculty, staff and alumni.

The college also offered more individual and small-group campus visits, large open houses and off-site events such as student receptions held across the country.

Coaches, students, staff and faculty members were on hand for many of these events, which occurred in such cities as San Francisco, Chicago, Miami and Portland, Oregon, Mirabile said. Alumni or current parents hosted them.

"This speaks to this idea that when we connect the marketplace with Beloit, they want to be a part of Beloit," Mirabile said.

Quality was not sacrificed with an increase in enrollment. This year's entering class had high school GPA and ACT scores that were nearly identical to those in recent years, he said.

Mirabile said 94 percent of Beloit College graduates are employed, in graduate school or in volunteer service within six months of graduating.

Other information about this freshman class:

—Students come from 37 states.

—Illinois contributed the most students at 103. Fifty-four students come from Wisconsin and 29 from California.

—The class is the largest international class ever at the college with 39 students from 15 countries.

"We are very proactive in reaching out to students from all walks of life and all areas of the country," Mirabile said. "Being proactive helps Beloit get on the radar screen. It's one thing to get on the radar screen, but what happens when they see you? When they see us, we are a diverse and welcoming community that values differences in people."

"In a nutshell, we want students who are well-rounded people and academically talented who are going to contribute to the college but also want to be here."

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