Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress
Fall enrollment has grown by nearly a quarter compared to last year's figures, rising from 457 students in 2011 to 560 in 2012, according to Jacksonville College enrollment figures released Monday.
“We love being Jacksonville's community college,” said Dr. Tam Clark, college academic dean. “We're very pleased with the numbers – we had anticipated a 15-20 percent growth, so it's been a smooth start to the semester.”
Jacksonville College is a two-year private Christian college owned and operated by the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas, and is affiliated with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. The college program began in September 1899, with an enrollment of 34 students.
Despite a hurting economy, families who send their children to two-year institutions such as Jacksonville College are finding that their dollar stretches far.
“Jacksonville college is a fairly inexpensive school, and we purposely keep our costs as low as we can,” Clark said.
Excluding additional fees, a student can expect to pay $210 per credit hour at the school, according to Jacksonville College's website.
“When the economy is difficult, you'll find that enrollment at two-year institutions increases while enrollment at (many) four-year institutions decrease,” she said. “Students choose to stay closer to home to cut expenses, and find themselves in a smaller, less expensive program where they can get the same basic coursework (as a four-year program), and then transfer to a four-year institution.”
There is no one student population that has experienced significant growth, because it's evident among the areas of residential students, dual credit area high school students and commuter students, Clark said.
According to figures provided by the school, this fall there are 120 students living on campus – compared to 97 last fall – in one of three residential halls.
“One of the halls that was once used as married housing was renovated over the summer and now is housing men,” Clark said, adding the school purchased several homes adjacent to the campus and renovated them as student housing.
When the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board adopted an initiative for dual-credit enrollment of high school students in college courses in 2000, Jacksonville College already had such a program in place.
Nearly half of this year's fall enrollment, or 243 of 560, are dual credit students who seize upon the chance to take classes in their hometown, Clark said.
“It's not quite half of our enrollment, but parents and students are finding that the program is of great value because students can begin college coursework in high school and the hours transfer with them, so they're ahead of the game when they get to their four-year institution,” she said. “And it's a great opportunity for students wondering whether they can or want to go to college because it allows them to take a college class. Economically, it's a good decision for students and their families.”
High schools working with Jacksonville College include those in Jacksonville, Wells, New Summerfield and The Brook Hill School in Bullard.
“Dual credit helps those students get a start on their college career, and sometimes, that first step can be the hardest one to take,” Clark said.
Jacksonville College also received about 30 to 35 students after Lon Morris College failed to open for the fall semester, Clark estimated.
“These students are now Jacksonville College students as are those students who transferred coursework from numerous other campuses across the United States,” she said.
To accommodate the needs of a growing student body, Jacksonville College is planning construction of neww residence halls, a new cafeteria, a student center and additional education building, according to a release from the school.
Meanwhile, this past year, the school completed different campus renovation and improvement projects, including the construction of a fine arts storage building, the addition of a sand volleyball court and creation of new parking lots, in addition to renovation of the college gymnasium, the student center/cafeteria and the campus book store.
Technological updates also were made, including flat-screen monitors used as “electronic bulletin boards” and a campus-wide crisis alert system, the statement said.