ELIZABETHTOWN, Pa. (WHTM) — For biochemistry major Sagar Patel, the pandemic put a halt on all his in-person labs.

“It was so hard because there were so many different factors and it’s hard to do stuff at home especially being a hard science major,” Elizabethtown student Sagar Patel said.

It is a major that benefits from hands-on experience and in-person instruction. “I don’t have any of these chemicals at home. I don’t have a Bunsen burner. I don’t have a stirrer at home. I think it is really helpful to be here. I feel like I can finally talk to my classmates and my labmates in person, which is really beneficial instead of zoom calls and the internet crashing,” Patel said.

He’s not the only one happy. It is a sentiment shared by faculty at Elizabethtown College as it is set to welcome its largest class over the last five years with enrollment up again for a second straight year.

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“The people that live and thrive in this community, I think our students are an integral part of that, and people are certainly excited to come back in person. It just makes an impact in such a positive way,” Elizabethtown VP of Enrollment Management, John Champoli said.

Other local colleges are seeing similar trends. Over at Thaddeus Stevens College, enrollment is up 9% over last fall Champoli believes it’s their curriculum that’s driving this increase. “New programs, market-relevant programs that students are asking for and that are in demand that have great outcomes. So I think the really difficult work of self-reflection and looking at our academic portfolio that has paid off tremendously,” Champoli said.

While many colleges nationwide continue to see a dip in fall enrollments, it seems like the strategies being employed by local colleges like Elizabethtown to attract more students are working.