Georgia Highlands College rides high as enrollment surges
By Rusty Causey
The Georgia Highlands College student body is larger than ever.
The 33-year-old school reached an all-time high of 3,327 students for the Fall 2003 Semester. That is a 16.3 percent increase from the 2002 Fall Semester that enrolled 2,860 students, according to Lynn Bacon, chair of enrollment management.
Mitchell Hewell, a student worker for the Student Life Office, said, "It's outrageous how much the school has grown."
Over the past two years, FC has grown 37.3 percent, and the increases in students enrolling at the college show no sign of slowing down anytime soon.
These are the enrollment totals for the five campuses:
- Rome Campus has 1,700 students.
- Cartersville Campus has 813 students.
- Acworth Campus has 796 students.
- Heritage Hall Campus has 371 students.
- Waco Campus has 183 students.
Also, the Georgia Globe ECORE internet-based online courses have an enrollment of 65 students. (Since some students attend classes on more than one campus, these numbers total to more than the 3,327 individuals enrolled.)
Dr. Randy Pierce, president of Georgia Highlands College, said, "The growth shows that we are doing our mission right and bringing the quality of life up in this region of the state."
There have been many factors involved in the increased enrollment. Bacon said that the high population growth along Interstate 75 has affected the growth rate at the Cartersville and North Metro Tech campuses, the college recruitment plan has helped spread the word about FC, and the economy has forced some people back to school for new job training. She added that the nursing program is growing due to the shortage of nurses.
Pierce said that the population growth affects the increased enrollment and that he expects the population and enrollment to continue growing for the next 10-15 years.
The administration and faculty have had to make many changes to keep up with the 3,300 plus students, including hiring new faculty, shuffling large classes to larger classrooms and increased teamwork from the part-time and full-time faculty.
Dr. Virginia Carson, vice president for academic affairs, said, "The faculty has been very supportive, and some teachers are teaching extra classes to handle the increased enrollment."
Georgia Highlands College is expected to grow larger even faster once the new campus in Bartow County is opened. Right now the 813 students in Cartersville use five classrooms on that campus and science labs at Cartersville High School. Once the new campus opens, FC will have 21 new classrooms and three new science labs. The college administrators expect the enrollment will jump to 1,500 students in Bartow County once the campus is opened.
At North Metro Tech, the students and faculty face many of the same problems. They have 796 students and only five classrooms. Pierce said he thinks that if there were more space at North Metro Tech, it is not unreasonable to think that the Georgia Highlands College program could attract 1,500 students.
With the new Bartow Campus, Pierce said he expects FC to grow to over 5,000 students in two to four years.
Student life has also seen an increase of activity due to the growth of the student population. John Spranza, director of student life, expects the increase to result in more student activities and better student participation throughout the year.
The only thing that may hurt the growth of Georgia Highlands College would be the cutbacks in state funding the school has faced over the past three years and future 2004 and 2005 budget cuts. Pierce said, "Georgia Highlands College has grown 58.2 percent over the past three years, but the school has faced budget cuts from 12 to14 percent during that same time period, and the school is expecting the cuts to continue though 2005."