With falls arrival, college students in Middle Georgia are settling into their routines for the new semester. And at some midstate schools, there are more new faces on campus than in previous years.
Nationally, college enrollment was on an upswing for a decade but has decreased over the past couple of years. National enrollment dipped 2.3 percent in spring 2013 compared to the year before, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
While enrollment figures for this fall semester are not official for many institutions until October, preliminary numbers suggest enrollment is rising at some midstate colleges and universities.
At Mercer University, total opening day enrollment was 8,316 students, which is an increase of 134 students compared to last fall semester. At the Macon campus, a record number of 834 new students enrolled, including 728 freshmen and 106 transfer students. Thats an increase of 13 percent over last years record of 645 freshmen, officials said.
Penny Elkins, senior vice president for enrollment management, attributes that growth to new programs and facilities, such as the new Cruz Plaza.
Prospective students are discovering the value that the Mercer experience has to offer, and we are definitely seeing the impact of that with enrollment growth throughout the institution, she said in a news release.
The new class includes 28 high school valedictorians, and nearly half of the new students graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school classes. The average high school grade point average among new students is 3.7.
At Georgia College & State University, the fall enrollment is 6,565 students, an increase of more than 100 students compared to last year. At more than 1,400 students, freshmen enrollment increased by 10 percent, said Suzanne Pittman, assistant vice president of enrollment for Georgia College.
I think as more and more families in Georgia and beyond really understand what education in liberal arts is about, they understand how attractive that is, she said, adding many families are drawn to Georgia College because it offers that education at a comparatively low price.
As the economy slowly recovers, many students are still depending heavily on financial aid, and Georgia Colleges programs seem to be a draw, Pittman said. Particularly, a need-based program that pairs students with jobs seems to be popular among new students, she said.
Enrollment at Wesleyan College has increased for the fifth consecutive year. The entering class is 5 percent larger compared to fall 2012, and 55 percent larger than in 2008, according to officials.
Still, other colleges continue to see a trend of dropping enrollment. At Fort Valley State University, preliminary numbers show a 10 percent decrease from 2012. Enrollment for this fall semester is 3,200 students, according to the university.
While that number is higher than a few years ago -- in 2006, enrollment was 2,176 -- enrollment has been declining over the past few years. FVSU officials could not be reached for comment.
At Middle Georgia State College, the inaugural fall semester has a preliminary enrollment of 8,200 students. The college formed in January after Macon State and Middle Georgia colleges merged.
Also in its first fall semester as a newly consolidated institution, Central Georgia Technical College has an enrollment of 7,489 students. The college was formed after the merger of Middle Georgia and Central Georgia technical colleges. Officials opted to keep the latters name.
To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.