Enrollment numbers are not due to the state until next week, but preliminary numbers show Kennesaw State’s enrollment increased by 429 students, a 1.8 percent change, with 24,604 students this fall, up from 24,175 students a year ago.
SPSU has 6,206 students enrolled, an increase of 422 students, or 7.3 percent, over last fall.
Of the 35 colleges in the University System of Georgia, 19 have reported drops between 0.6 and 13.1 percent in enrollment figures. Overall, enrollment dropped from 316,095 in 2011 to 312,600 so far this fall.
Dr. Ken Harmon, Kennesaw State’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, said the increased enrollment at his school could be attributed to “excitement” on campus.
“There is something quite unique here,” he said Tuesday. “I’ve been at seven universities in my career, and there’s nothing like it is here. We have academic programs that can compete anywhere. We have a campus experience now that we didn’t have 10 years ago. It’s a true destination campus.”
The increased enrollment can also be contributed to the school admitting its largest freshman class this fall at 3,188 students, up from 2,892 last year.
Harmon, who’s been with the university for the last six years, said he often hears from constituents and members of the business community about the “buzz” of why students are coming to Kennesaw State.
“Our academic reputation is significant,” he said. “We have the largest nursing school in the state of Georgia, the second largest business school and the second largest education school. The rigor and size keeps going up, so we get a lot of academic respect as well.”
Dr. Lisa Rossbacher, who has been with SPSU for the last 15 years and has served as the university’s president since 1998, said unlike increases in the past, this fall’s student enrollment is due to the number of new students they’ve enrolled as opposed to retaining students.
“The increase in new freshmen, compared to last year, it’s up almost 28 percent,” she said. “We’re getting the word out about having on-campus housing and real campus life, so students who traditionally thought of us as a commuter school can see it as a richer experience now.”
She also said they’ve introduced a number of new programs that are attractive to prospective students.
The school saw a 62 percent increase in student enrollment in the mechanical engineering program over last year; electrical engineering, 40 percent; computer game design and element program, 63 percent; computer science, 23 percent; and accounting, 28 percent.
“We’re providing programs that students are interested in,” she said.
Both Harmon and Rossbacher also said they anticipate seeing the trend of increased enrollments to continue.
Harmon said they are looking at building a second dining hall, introducing new programs of study like culinary, hospitality and sustainability, and adding more sports at KSU.
“We hope all these things can happen fairly soon to create another level of connection and excitement here on campus,” he said.
Rossbacher said that like KSU, SPSU will continue to grow in their academic programs, look at bringing more students by offering more on-campus housing and possibly introducing a couple of new women’s sports like volleyball or soccer.
“We are looking at a number of ways to increase student life,” she said.
John Millsaps, a spokesman with the system, said the drop in enrollment could be attributed to the “18th year in a dip in birth rate, the Board of Regents changing some of their admissions requirements, the economy and there being some changes to financial aid programs like PELL.”
The last time the system saw a drop in enrollment was in the late 1990s, when they shifted from the quarter calendar to semester calendar.
Millsaps noted that the enrollment figures weren’t official.
“We have been historically, extremely careful about our enrollment numbers,” he said. “From the time a semester stars to the final drop/add date, enrollment could shift.”
The final enrollment numbers should be released sometime in November and will help determine the budget for the system.
The top five schools with the largest drop in enrollment at the end of September are Bainbridge, Georgia Perimeter, East Georgia State, Fort Valley State and Gordon State colleges.