Augusta University President Brooks A. Keel, PhD, proudly announced earlier this month that, despite concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, enrollment at Augusta University has increased this fall by 3.1 percent.
“As we started going into the fall semester, there was a great deal of uncertainty about what impact COVID-19 might have on our enrollment. Enrollment is such a very important aspect of any university, and it’s no different here at Augusta University,” Brooks said. “We were really holding our breath and keeping our fingers crossed.”
Despite those concerns, the total enrollment for the fall semester at Augusta University is estimated to be 9,558 students, which is an increase of 3.1%. The official count will be announced later this fall after the enrollment numbers are submitted to the University System of Georgia in October.
“That is stronger than it has been in nearly 10 years,” Keel said. “In fact, for the last five years, including this current semester, we have seen on average a 2.8% positive increase in enrollment, even in the face of the pandemic.”
Dr. Susan Davies, vice president of Enrollment and Student Affairs at Augusta University, said the fact that Augusta University has increased its total enrollment by about 15% over the past five years speaks to the phenomenal strength of the institution.
“We are incredibly proud to have an increase in our enrollment, especially given the pandemic,” Davies said. “We saw a significant increase in our graduate enrollment, and, for our undergraduate enrollment, our increase was largely in retention and persistence, which is exactly what we want to see. We want to see more students who we have recruited and enrolled continue to stay at Augusta University and pursue their education.”
For the fall semester, graduate and professional student enrollment (which includes students from the Medical College of Georgia and the Dental College of Georgia) is estimated to be approximately 3,247 students, which is an increase of 6.6%. Undergraduate enrollment for the fall of 2020 is about 5,676 students, which is an increase of 1.4%. Post-professional enrollment is estimated to be about 635 students.
Undergraduate enrollment also saw an increase in dual enrollment this fall. This means that for students who are juniors or seniors in high school in the Central Savannah River Area, Augusta University saw a significant increase in the number of those students who were taking college classes at AU.
In addition, Augusta University saw an increase in the number of local high school graduates enrolling this fall. Administration speculates that some local students saw Augusta University as a safer college option, since it’s close to home and students could potentially live at home.
“We’ve actually proven ourselves to be a safer college option because we’ve had really low numbers for positive COVID-19 cases,” said Davies. “And, of course, the easy access to COVID testing on our campus through AU Health has been remarkable.”
Regarding graduate enrollment, Augusta University saw increases in both new student graduate enrollment as well as in continuing student graduate enrollment. This is because when the economy dips, universities usually see an increase in graduate enrollment, as people want to equip themselves with new skills by coming back to school.
Earlier this year, Augusta University’s College of Education began offering a fully online Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program.
“We had actually been working on putting this program online for quite a while, even before the pandemic,” said Dr. Kim Barker, an assistant professor of the College of Education and advisor for the elementary MAT online program. “Dr. Beth Pendergraft, chair of the Department of Teaching and Leading, had done a lot of research and realized that there was a great need in the state of Georgia for, specifically, an online elementary MAT program, so we had already planned to start rolling out the courses online this summer.”
As soon as the online elementary MAT program became available during this past summer semester, Barker said the College of Education saw a steady increase in student enrollment. Students have enrolled from across the region, including Aiken, Bibb, Carroll, Cherokee, Cobb, Columbia, DeKalb, Floyd, Fulton, Polk, Richmond, Warren and Washington counties.
“We are spreading all across Georgia and, of course, we have students from Aiken County in South Carolina,” Barker said. “So, we’re really excited about expanding our scope and drawing new students to Augusta University. It’s been a really nice success story for us.”
The College of Science and Mathematics at Augusta University has also experienced an increase in enrollment in two new graduate programs.
“A master’s degree in biological and computational mathematics and a master’s degree in biomolecular science were two new programs this year that have met their enrollment goals,” Davies said. “And, as far as our professional students, the Medical College of Georgia has a strategic plan to increase the size of its class every year for the next several years. Of course, they have no problem meeting their enrollment goals.”
The steady increase in enrollment over the past five years truly shows the broad appeal of Augusta University, according to Davies. She recounts that even in the face of a pandemic, the university provided its students the tools necessary to continue their education without skipping a beat.
“Our unique status as Georgia’s designated center of health sciences excellence and a thriving comprehensive research university is something students will not find elsewhere in the state,” said Davies. “We are unique in that way, and that’s why students choose Augusta University.”