Mars Hill, A-B Tech Community colleges report record fall enrollment

Nearly 7,800 students have enrolled at A-B Tech Community College for the fall semester — a 3.7 percent increase over last year. But at nearby Mars Hill College, enrollment is up 7 percent from last year, and 20 percent from two years ago.

“We are trying to make private higher education affordable for the families of the area by using the financial aid award process to maximize opportunities,” says John Wells, Mars Hil’s executive vice president. He credits the increase to “streamlining processes for both admissions and financial aid, we deliver more information to potential students quicker. That information then paves the way for students to choose Mars Hill.”

At A-B Tech, President Hank Dunn attributes the increase to the school’s flexible classes, affordable tuition, and quality education. “More and more people are recognizing that A-B Tech is a smart choice for higher education, whether they are looking for career training or planning to start here before transferring to a four-year university,” he says.

Dunn also touts A-B Tech’s affordability: “students can graduate with a two-year degree for about $6,000, a fraction of the cost at four-year public and private colleges and universities.”

WLOS TV’s John Le reported on the rise in enrollment, linking it to the economy — students there for the cost or changing careers in difficult times. Le notes that A-B Tech is trying to adjust to parking and traffic challenges, and is notifying students via Facebook and Twitter when lots are full or available.

Here are the full press releases from each college:

A-B Tech

A-B Tech Community College Kicks Off Fall Semester with Record Enrollment

A-B Tech Community College set a record for fall enrollment Monday, with nearly 7,800 credit students signed up for class.

The first day of the semester showed 7,796 students enrolled in classes leading to degrees, diplomas or certificates – compared to 7,515 at the same time last year, for a 3.7 percent increase. By Tuesday, the College’s headcount had reached nearly 8,000 as students continued to register for classes with later start dates.

A-B Tech President Hank Dunn attributed the nearly 4 percent enrollment increase to the College’s flexible classes, affordable tuition, and quality education. “More and more people are recognizing that A-B Tech is a smart choice for higher education, whether they are looking for career training or planning to start here before transferring to a four-year university,” he said.

“Our recent ranking as one of only 16 exceptional community colleges in the state is evidence of the quality of instruction our faculty provide. And, students can graduate with a two-year degree for about $6,000, a fraction of the cost at four-year public and private colleges and universities.”

New programs in such areas as building construction science and pharmacy technology also have added to the College’s popularity, according to Dunn. “The secret to being a good community college is finding the community’s needs and meeting them. We think we do that by offering programs that prepare students to get good jobs right here at home.”

Classes are still being added to the fall semester in shortened formats known as minimesters. These classes run either four weeks or eight weeks in length, and provide the same credit as traditional 16-week classes. Minimesters are popular among students who are pressed for time or have difficulty juggling multiple classes. They also are a good option for university-bound students because of the variety of transfer classes available.

Start dates for four-week classes are Sept. 18, Oct. 17 and Nov. 14. New eight-week classes begin Oct. 17. To learn more about flexible class schedules or to register for minimester classes, visit abtech.edu or call 254-1921.

Mars Hill

As the 2012-13 academic year began on Tuesday, Mars Hill College welcomed a record-setting student body that was 7% larger than last year at this time, and nearly 20% higher than two years ago.

The 1152 students who are currently registered for traditional classes (excluding adult and graduate studies) represent Mars Hill’s highest enrollment in over 30 years.  Of the 1152 total, 617 are continuing students who are returning after at least one semester at Mars Hill.  Students new to Mars Hill number 535, including 441 freshmen.

Together with students in Mars Hill Adult and Graduate Studies (which includes two ongoing cohorts of masters-level students), total enrollment at Mars Hill as of Tuesday, is 1396.

Dr. John Wells, Executive Vice President, credits the rise in enrollment to a number of initiatives undertaken in recent years through a strategic planning process. Chief among those strategies is more efficient admissions and financial aid processes.

“We are trying to make private higher education affordable for the families of the area by using the financial aid award process to maximize opportunities,” Wells said.  “Also, by streamlining processes for both admissions and financial aid, we deliver more information to potential students quicker. That information then paves the way for students to choose Mars Hill.”

Other recent initiatives at Mars Hill College are designed to keep students engaged in a vibrant educational and social experience on campus. In the past three years, Mars Hill has revised orientation to emphasize student involvement on campus, used grant funds to emphasize undergraduate research, added significant resources to the student activities budget and hired additional faculty positions to maintain small class sizes, especially in freshman classes.

In addition, in anticipation of the students currently arriving, Mars Hill College has spent the summer increasing the number of student rooms available for residence on campus.

“Currently, we are responding to the increased enrollment by expanding and upgrading residence halls on campus, and we have plans for more, continued growth,” Wells said.

Dr. Craig Goforth, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, echoed Wells’ assertion that multiple factors have contributed to the increase.  “This record-setting enrollment is due to our wonderful location, and a herculean team effort on the part of faculty, staff and administration.  We’re looking forward to this academic year, and we’re excited about welcoming these students into the Mars Hill family.”

Mars Hill College is a private, liberal arts institution offering over 30 baccalaureate degrees and one graduate degree in elementary education. Founded in 1856 by Baptist families of the region, the campus is located just 20 minutes north of Asheville in the mountains of western North Carolina.www.mhc.edu 1-866-MHC-4-YOU.

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About Margaret Williams
Managing Editor Margaret Williams has been at Xpress since 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987.

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