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Published: Monday, 9/10/2012

Lourdes notes shift in enrollment

Overall total slips, but traditional-age students increase 32%

BY KELLY McLENDON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Lourdes graduate Charity Anderson reads her poem at a college journal's reception. More people are hearing about strong Lourdes programs, one professor says. Lourdes graduate Charity Anderson reads her poem at a college journal's reception. More people are hearing about strong Lourdes programs, one professor says.
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Although Lourdes University experienced a decrease of 34 students in fall enrollment from last year, the university appears to have captured the attention of new, full-time, traditional-age students this year. Enrollment of traditional-age students increased 32 percent this year among the total enrollment of 2,621 students.

"With the more vibrant student life that we have started offering, we became an option, and we're not that commuter campus," Amy Mergen, dean of enrollment, said. "We are a 24/7 residential option for students." She also cited affordability as part of the school's appeal to recent high school graduates.

"We have students from Alaska, Texas, Maine, Puerto Rico, Congo, Jamaica, Northern Ireland," she said.

The art and biology programs are two that increased significantly over last year. Professor Anjali Gray, chairman of the biology and health sciences department, said enrollment in the biology program had increased 17 percent and that interest in the field is strong.

Ms. Gray said that students from the biology program have been accepted in dental, medical, and veterinary schools.

Ms. Mergen said the members of the current freshman class have higher grade-point averages than past freshman classes.

Although traditional-age students are fueling many of the program enrollment increases, Erin Szavuly, an associate professor of art, said older, nontraditional students can also bring much knowledge into the classroom.

"We don't want to overshadow the nontraditional students," she said. "Student-centeredness is our goal."

Ms. Mergen said, "One of our students said earlier that he's really seeing a blending of the nontraditional and traditional-age students working on projects together, becoming more of a community now."

Ms. Szavuly said enrollment in the art program has increased 43 percent, noting that more people are hearing about the university and its high-quality programs and teachers.

Ms. Mergen said that the strong support system and structure of the university are primary factors in keeping students returning.

"This generation of students is looking for opportunities to get involved. They can do that. It truly is a community out here."



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