College enrollment up again

As the fall season for college gears up, the Augusta area's institutions of higher education report increasing enrollment.

At Augusta State University, where classes start Monday, there have been about 250 more students accepted this fall semester compared with last fall, when there was a record enrollment of 7,061 students.

"Part of the increase may be attributed to the economy," said Katherine Sweeney, the registrar and admissions director for ASU. "Typically, people want to make themselves more marketable for new careers or career advancement.

"Also, we've realigned the admissions office to allow recruiters more time to visit high schools and college fairs outside our traditional service area. We're beginning to see those students enroll at ASU."

In his State of the University speech this week, President William Bloodworth said that for the first time ASU's student housing offering, University Village, is filled to capacity and even has a waiting list for some students.

Along with the growth, this year the university received approval from the state for $2 million in bond funds for design work on a new classroom building.

Across the river, the University of South Carolina Aiken, which will start undergraduate and graduate fall classes Thursday, also is seeing growth. Andrew Hendrix, USC Aiken's admissions director, said the university will welcome its second-largest freshman class in the school's history, with 630 enrollees.

This year's class includes students from 40 of the 46 South Carolina counties and 15 other states. Hendrix said the school has pushed to recruit more freshmen from outside traditional markets to diversify the student body. The university also will have 25 high school seniors enrolled in concurrent classes.

USC Aiken's admission's office says official overall figures won't be available until Aug. 23.

Undergraduate numbers there last fall were at about 3,200. Last fall, there also was a 7 percent increase in incoming first-year students, compared with the previous year.

After a 20 percent enrollment increase last fall, Aiken Technical College has spent the summer looking for opportunities to increase its classes and capacity. The school, which starts fall classes Aug. 23, expects to top 3,300 students this fall, compared with its enrollment of 3,235 last fall, according to Dr. Jim Schmidt, the vice president of student services.

Augusta Technical College starts its fall term Sept. 27. Although it's too early for enrollment numbers, Bonita Jenkins, the college's director of marketing and public relations, said enrollment has been growing in past terms. This summer, she said, Augusta Tech had an enrollment of 3,325, compared with 3,284 the previous summer. Last fall, Augusta Tech enrolled 322 students more than the 4,706 who enrolled in fall 2008.

"Closed companies, layoffs and all of the economy challenges have forced people to look at their lives and decide what they want or need to do," Jenkins said. "Augusta Tech is affordable and technical education is a fast track directly into the work force."

Augusta Tech also is involved in the construction of a campus near Grovetown. A fall opening had been hoped for there, but officials say the school will now likely start classes next year.

Paine College was one of the first area colleges to start fall classes, which it did Tuesday.

The college said it's still firming up its overall enrollment numbers for this fall, but has 335 new students. Officials there say they saw an increase in student numbers in the spring, and as part of further projected growth the college recently unveiled a 25-year master plan for its campus to be undertaken in five-year intervals.

Officials have said the first interval will include a new academic building, a new resident life area for student housing, a face-lift to the college's main administrative building, and a new Health Education Activities Learning Complex.

Beyond the first five years, Paine officials have said, the college would like to expand with even more academic buildings and residential space, and add a research component to its offerings.

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