Middle Georgia colleges and universities are welcoming students these days as a new academic year begins.
The influx includes record-setting freshman classes at Mercer University and Georgia College.
Celebrating its 125th anniversary, Georgia College welcomed about 1,450 freshmen Thursday and opens classes Monday.
Mercer opens classes Tuesday for its Macon undergraduates. On Saturday, the university moved in a record 811 freshmen as well as 103 transfer students.
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“This is a highly qualified group of young men and women, and we look forward to how they will grow and shape the institution in the years to come,” said Penny Elkins, senior vice president of enrollment management.
Elkins said the energy on campus, particularly around Mercer’s entry into the Southern Conference, had helped prompt 95 percent of the first-year class to live on campus. The university has a policy that students must live on campus for the first three years, but students who live in the area do not have to meet that requirement. However, many area students decided to live on campus instead of commute.
So far, all students are finding space on campus, she said.
Middle Georgia State College continues to build toward university status and added four-year athletics through the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. Before consolidation, Middle Georgia College in Cochran was a two-year college that participated in the National Junior College Athletic Association.
Besides four-year athletics, Middle Georgia also consolidated its first college, the College of Arts and Sciences, from three schools of liberal arts, natural sciences and math and social sciences.
Another step on its way to university status, the school added a marching band for the first time at the Cochran campus as well, said Sheri Rowland, vice president of enrollment management.
“As we make the transition to a university, we continue adding experiences to enhance the atmosphere of campuses,” Rowland said. “This year, we’re exploring Greek life and are looking to add it next year.”
The college had 1,212 freshmen registered, close to flat from last year, but Rowland said she expected to add 30 to 50 students before classes begin Monday. Transfers were up over last year, at 697, up from 602 a year ago.
Wesleyan College continues to grow in its nontraditional programs and anticipated adding 160 to 170 new students in its traditional undergraduate program this year, which is in line with last year, said Steve Farr, vice president for enrollment management.
“We’re really excited about this class. They are a great group of young women,” Farr said.
Wesleyan will begin classes Wednesday. First-year students moved in on Saturday.
Fort Valley State University moved in freshman and transfer students on Thursday, and returning students moved in over the weekend. Classes begin Monday and students will be registering throughout the first week, said Angela Harris, interim vice president for student success and enrollment management. She would not give specific numbers because of continuing registrations, but said it was positive.
“Fall numbers are looking good,” she said.
To contact writer Mark Vanderhoek, call 744-4331.