Rising up: Bethel enrollment increasing despite COVID-19

Chad Frey
Following fall orientation, Bethel College is reporting an increase in enrollment despite COVID-19 concerns.

The school year got off to a rocky start at Bethel College in North Newton, but this week, there is good news to report for the small college.

The school is recording an increase in enrollment.

As of the first day of classes, the enrollment stood at 475, compared to 466 a year ago, an increase of 2 percent.

“This year’s increased enrollment is a product of a strong class of new students and the improved retention of our returning students,” said Eric Preheim, interim director of development.

Classes began Aug. 19. Bethel will announce its final enrollment numbers for the year on the official 20th day of class, Sept. 16.

“It is a testament to the hard work of the entire Bethel community – admissions, athletics, faculty, fine arts and so many more. Everyone plays a role in recruitment and retention.”

The start of school has been anything but easy — colleges everywhere have struggled with reopening plans as the state, nation and world deal with pandemic COVID-19.

On Aug. 17 The Harvey County Health Department, in conjunction with Bethel College, confirmed a cluster of COVID-19 cases on the Bethel campus in North Newton.

The cluster included 46 confirmed cases of COVID-19. There have been 482 individuals tested.

The cluster was identified through precautionary COVID-19 testing conducted by Bethel College.

Bethel requires all students, faculty, staff and administrators to be tested for COVID-19. Bethel also requires daily temperature checks, health status monitoring through a self-screening app, and individuals to wear a face mask indoors and outdoors on the campus.

The campus closed itself to the public as those who tested positive were isolated — whether that be on campus or sent home.

Sports practices were halted, as about half of the positive cases found involved athletes. The athletic department has since returned to competition — with the football team playing their home opener on Saturday in front of a limited crowd.

This year move-in at Bethel Collge was a staggered affair, and the school is now reporting an increase in enrollment.