Traditional classes began Tuesday at Mars Hill College for the 2011-12 academic year with an 11 % increase in enrollment over last year, and a higher initial enrollment than at any time in thirty years.
A total of 1073 traditional students were enrolled for the first day of class, as compared to 960 last year around this time. The new class, currently numbering 484, promises to be the largest class in recent memory at Mars Hill.
The increased enrollment includes new students as well as 75 students who are transferring in from other institutions.
Ed Hoffmeyer, Mars Hill College Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid credited the increase to the hard work of admissions staff, in addition to a new, more stream-lined financial aid process.
“Because we are in difficult economic times, the college has made an extra effort this year to try to make more of the institutional funds available to students to come to Mars Hill. I think that decision by the administration was huge, and it certainly showed a good faith effort on our part to try to meet the students more than half-way in some cases,” he said.
Hoffmeyer said that providing more concrete financial aid information as early as possible also helps students realize that an education at a small, private institution like Mars Hill can be affordable.
“Providing more institutional funds, and getting the information early helped put us in the ballgame when a lot of students would have ruled us out in the beginning because we are a private school,” he said.
Hoffmeyer also pointed to a formalized agreement with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians as a factor in the increase. As a result of specific efforts to meet the needs of Cherokee students, eight new freshmen are Cherokee, Hoffmeyer said.
Dr. Dan Lunsford, president of Mars Hill College, said: “The significant growth in the entering population is reflective of a team effort. Our goal is to maintain a larger population of students who will be successful and who will reap the benefits of a high quality academic program here at Mars Hill College,” he said. “To have this success in troubled economic time is also gratifying. We are excited about what this will do for the long-term future of the college.”