Wilson College dispels five myths Misconceptions of school addressed

By Jim Hook Public Opinion

UPDATED: 04/10/2014 07:03:36 AM EDT

Chambersburg >> Wilson College administrators took a big step Tuesday toward dispelling five myths about Chambersburg’s small private college.

They and a handful of local business leaders discussed the college’s plan for the future. “The fact they are reaching out to us is a very progressive step and something that candidly never took place effectively in the past,” said L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp.

Wilson, founded in 1869 as a women’s college, has expanded its academic programs and widened its enrollment to include resident male students for the first time.

The college could see up to 800 undergraduate students living on campus in five years, according to Mary Ann Naso, Wilson vice president for enrollment. About 300 are currently resident students.

Already 900 students have applied for the fall semester, up from 500 all of last year, she said.

The freshman class is expected to have 160 students, up from the usual 100.

The college in recent months has marketed the campus to local high school administrators and community leaders.

Eric Michael, master of education program director, named five myths that persist in the community:

* Wilson College is expensive.

* The college is for rich, white girls with horses.

* The courses deal only with animal science.

* There’s nothing to do at the college or in Chambersburg.

* Wilson College is not involved in the community.

The college offers 25 undergraduate majors and 41 minors. Average class size is 13 students, and professors know the names of their students. “Our faculty is here for one reason,” Naso said. “They love to teach.”

Nursing and accounting are among the programs that Wilson administrators highlighted for the guests.

“I think they’ve identified areas that are growth areas,” said David G. Sciamanna, president of the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce. “I think they have a good plan, vision and team in place and a dynamic leader on President Barbara Mistick. For the most part they have the support of the alumnae and staff. I think they’re doing everything right.”

One statistic troubled Ross. Parents glancing at the Wilson College literature would see tuition listed at more than $23,000. But the average student’s tuition plus room and board at Wilson amounts to $15,000, about the same as at Shippensburg University, according to Wilson administrators. More than 100 scholarships, including ones based on a student’s performance, make the difference. Students also can earn up to $10,000 in buyback of federal student loans.

The median family income of a Wilson undergraduate is $74,833. Students come from more than 20 states and a dozen countries.

Administrators and business leaders spoke briefly about getting Wilson students more involved in the community.

“If we want to keep kids involved in the community, the internship is absolutely the way to go,” Sciamanna said.

The Hospice Tree of Life is an example of getting students to help in the community, according to Melanie Furlong of LIFE Lutheran Services Inc.

Students could help with a proposed non-profit riding therapy center, Leg Up Farm based in York County, according to Ross. The farm caters to children with special needs.

He also urged administrators to study how Dickinson College has become a key part of the Carlisle community.