The Times/LUCY SCHALY
2008-09, 1,400 (projected).
Students who live off campus, including commuters who live with their parents:
2008-09, 374 (projected).
Students, 500 (during the school year).
Source: Geneva College
BEAVER FALLS - It was rumored last winter that Geneva College planned to conduct classes at College Hill Reformed Presbyterian Church.
Beaver Falls Code Enforcement Officer Michael Behrens dashed off a notice stating that, if true, the college would be in violation of codes and subject to fines.
The rumor wasn′t true. And Behrens′ brash treatment of Geneva, the city′s largest employer, upset city leaders.
"That really got us going mad," Beaver Falls Councilman Leonard Chiappetta said.
Council assured Geneva administrators that the actions of Behrens, who would soon resign to work for his previous employer, weren′t indicative of city government.
"We appreciate and support the college in every way we possibly can," Mayor Karl Boak said.
His comments suggest that city leaders, after years of indifference, recognize Geneva′s importance to the local economy.
With 430 full- and part-time employees, Geneva dwarfs the city′s second-largest employer, Armstrong World Industries, a ceiling tile manufacturer with 163 workers.
In years past, the college often took a back seat to manufacturers and steel mills, which, until two decades ago, far exceeded Geneva′s payroll.
But as the mills, particularly Babcock & Wilcox Steel Co., closed, Geneva′s role in the local economy grew. Sure, it doesn′t pay property taxes, Councilman George Quay said, but neither does Beaver County′s largest employer, The Medical Center, Beaver, in Brighton Township.
Two years ago, Geneva began a more aggressive undergraduate recruitment program, said Dave Layton, dean of undergraduate enrollment. Because of southwestern Pennsylvania′s declining population, Geneva is increasingly targeting students from neighboring states such as Ohio, New York and West Virginia.
"We have begun to cast our net a bit wider," Layton said.
Enrollment in 2007-08 jumped by 20 students, or 1.5 percent, from the previous school year. This year Layton predicts it will spike by 40 students, a 2.9 percent increase.
He expects undergraduate enrollment to hit 1,600 within the next five to 10 years. He didn′t say how many jobs such an increase would create.
But the influx of students has already exposed the college′s need for more student housing.
Geneva broke tradition five years ago by allowing noncommuting seniors to live off campus, Layton said. At the time, around 30 seniors took the college′s offer. This fall, the number will be closer to 100, Layton said.
The change has freed more dormitory space for the higher number of freshmen and transfer students enrolling at the college. Geneva officials are considering allowing juniors to live off campus to keep up with further dormitory space demands, Layton said.
That′s good news for potential landlords who, to attract students, might improve the houses and apartments they rent, Quay said.
Geneva might someday build new dormitories, Layton said, which would reduce the need for off-campus student housing.
Even so, the construction work and ability to retain more students would benefit the city, Quay said.
"What′s good for Geneva College is good for the city," he said. "And what′s good for the city is good for the college."