Click here to view article online at Macon.com

By Carl Lewis

clewis@macon.com

Monday, Aug. 17, 2009

Enrollment at midstate colleges is higher than ever this fall as the sluggish economy compels students to work toward the safeguard of a college diploma, officials say.Picture 4

At Georgia College & State University, 6,665 students are set to start classes today. That’s a 15 percent increase from last year’s enrollment.

“Young people these days are starting to figure out that, in this economy, they’re going to need a college degree if they want to keep up,” Georgia College and State University spokeswoman Judy Bailey said. “And our dorms are filled to capacity."

To handle the spike in students, 13 additional professors have been hired and two buildings have been constructed, including a health sciences facility, which will house nine new classrooms.

Fort Valley’s State University’s enrollment is skyrocketing, too.

Between 3,800 and 4,200 students are expected to begin class at FVSU today, a massive jump from last year’s record enrollment of 3,106 students.

Terrance Smith, the university’s vice president of student affairs and enrollment management, said FVSU is ready to accommodate the influx with recent improvements to the campus.

Wildcat Commons, one of FVSU’s new residence halls, will house 378 additional students, and University Villas, a nearby apartment complex, will house 138 students. A 10,000-seat stadium is expected to be completed within the next week.

“We’re poised for another successful year,” Smith said.

At Macon State College, officials expect more than 6,500 students will begin classes today. That’s a 2 percent increase from last year.

“It’s still early, but our numbers are definitely up,” said John Cole, the college’s vice president of advancement.

Of those 6,500 Macon State students, 2,000 of them will be attending classes at the college’s Warner Robins campus, where a new $5 million lecture hall will open.

At Gordon College in Barnesville, enrollment is expected to climb from 3,800 to more than 4,000 students .

“We are expecting a record-setting number of students,” said Ben Ferguson, director of admissions.

Gordon College has entered into an agreement with the city of Barnesville to use the football field parking area adjacent to campus to accommodate the increase in students.

Enrollment numbers for private schools such as Mercer University and Wesleyan College won’t be finalized for a number of weeks, but all signs point to similarly healthy gains in those institutions as well.

At Mercer, more than 600 new freshmen will move in on campus Saturday, making it the largest incoming class in a number of years.

“It’s looking like record enrollment for us, too,” university spokesman Larry Brumley said.

Brumley said he’s expecting about 8,000 students to be enrolled by the time classes start Aug. 25.

That’s a 19 percent increase from last year.

And at Wesleyan College, spokeswoman Susan Welsh said she’s expecting 20 percent more students to be enrolled this fall than last year.

“It’s going really well for us,” she said.