As classes begin Monday on all five University of North Georgia campuses with a projected student population nearing 20,000, UNG President Bonita Jacobs said planning and managing growth continues to be a priority.
The school has added faculty to meet growth in enrollment that is expected to be a little more than 5 percent higher than last year, according to numbers provided by UNG. Total enrollment of undergraduates and graduates is projected at 19,576 — 981 students more than last year’s total enrollment of 18,595.
“We’ve added (faculty) where the growth is,” Jacobs said in an interview with The Times last week. “We have high-percentage growth in Cumming and in Gainesville. We’re going to be up 5 or 6 percent, so we have to have faculty and classes to handle our growth in the region. It’s a balance for us. We don’t want to grow too fast. We work really hard to manage our growth while at the same time, we want to be sure to accommodate the needs of our region.”
At the Gainesville campus, undergraduate enrollment is projected to be 8,187, an increase of 463 students, or about 6 percent, from last year’s 7,724 undergraduate students. The projected undergraduate enrollment in Gainesville is about 41.8 percent of the total expected student enrollment of the university this year.
Jacobs brought up growth at the Gainesville campus during State of the University addresses at the Gainesville and Dahlonega campuses last week.
“In Gainesville, we expect continued and strong enrollment growth,” she said. “The good news is that much of our enrollment growth this year is due to returning students. Our Institute for Environmental and Spatial Analysis program — IESA — and the Gainesville Theatre Alliance continue to be signature programs, while our programs in communications, film and nursing are also growing.”
Jacobs told those at the meetings last week that a capital projects budget proposal approved recently by the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents, has $3 million earmarked for “planning and design funds for renovations to the Lanier Tech campus.” UNG is expected to receive the property where Lanier Technical College is currently located next to the Gainesville campus once Lanier Tech moves to its new location on Ga. 365 at Howard Road in 2019.
“There are two more steps in the budget process before this is final, but I am very optimistic,” Jacobs said in the speech. “We are in the initial stages of determining the best use of those facilities, which will be vital for the Gainesville campus.”
She said enrollment growth has been aided by improvements in the school’s efforts to retain students. She credited the school’s supplemental instruction program with helping achieve success in student retention. The program began at the Gainesville campus when it was still Gainesville State College and has been a part of the university efforts to help retain students since the college’s consolidation with North Georgia College and State University formed UNG almost five years ago.
“Supplemental instruction is where we’re hiring students to work in the classroom and they sit through the lecture with the professor and they post a couple of times later in the week to work individually with students on that lecture,” Jacobs said. “We hire students who have already aced that class and they understand what the professor is saying.
“They can talk in very clear language student to student, but it also lets students ask questions that they may not would ask in a class full of students,” she added. “Of all of the retention strategies I’ve ever used, I would put (supplemental instruction) up at the top in impact. It’s tremendous.”
UNG has also added more advisers to the academic advising program and strengthened its new student orientation program “to get them ready and of the right mindset to come prepared to work on their classes.” Jacobs said both will help improve efforts to retain students.
She praised the work of UNG Police Chief Justin Gaines and others in efforts to help the university community understand House Bill 280, also known as campus carry.
The law, which was effective July 1, allows those with a Georgia weapons carry license to carry a concealed handgun in certain areas at public colleges and universities. Gaines has held more than a dozen town hall meetings on the five campuses and put together a webpage to provide more information.
“He’s had a number of town hall meetings, and they’ve been well received,” she said. “I know they are pushing out information as quickly as they can.”