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Georgia Southwestern continues momentum with Fall enrollment increase

Nearly 500 incoming freshmen are among the school's 11.2% increase

The largest freshman class in the past 50 years highlights an enrollment surge at Georgia Southwestern State University (GSW). One week into a return to face-to-face instruction, GSW's enrollment has jumped more than 11%, bringing the total student body to 3,158.

The freshman class of nearly 500 students represents a 29% increase from one year ago and validates the ongoing investment in campus facilities, new academic programs and increased scholarship support.

"We are very excited to have students back on campus after a long five months," said Weaver. "The first day of class excitement is still lingering in the Hurricane atmosphere, and these students are more eager than ever to learn and get engaged on campus. While things may look a little different around here with a few modifications in operations, our students have been incredible in following the safety protocols and remaining open-minded and flexible to these changes. Our students want to be here learning in the classroom, and I think our numbers for fall indicate that."

"I just wanted to come to school and have that experience as a freshman," said Kyira Dawson of Tampa, Fl. who chose GSW for the affordable nursing program and scholarship opportunities.

In addition to the spectacular increase in new freshmen, GSW also saw huge gains at the graduate level and with dual-enrolled students. The graduate programs in Business, Education and Nursing grew by more than 24% while high school students choosing GSW for their dual enrollment increased by 36%.

Before, during, and even after coronavirus pandemic hit, the entire campus community has been committed to growing the student population with the Office of Recruitment and Admissions successfully leading the efforts to attract new undergraduate and graduate students.

"While you can never put your finger on one thing," said Weaver, "I believe the growth in new students came down to the fact that GSW has quality programs at an affordable cost, more scholarships were made available, our admissions team recruited harder, and our new branding is consistent with an increase in advertising."

GSW has some of the most recognized and top-ranked programs not only in the state, but in the nation. “Most affordable” and “best value” are two of the most popular accolades received each year. The nursing program was named #1 Top Nursing School in Georgia last year, the College of Business and Computing was recently reaccredited with AACSB and was named Top 10 Best Business Programs in America in 2019, among many other honors.

Thanks to private donors, over $1 million in scholarships are offered to financially support GSW students. Last year, the University established the President Jimmy Carter Leadership Program, the Southwestern Promise scholarship, and the Guaranteed Acceptance Program (GAP) in nursing, which all helped attract new students.

An "aggressive recruitment strategy" was another key element in drawing new students to GSW, said Jonathan Scott, Director of Recruitment and Admissions. Some of those efforts involved attending more off-campus recruitment events (prior to COVID-19), increasing campus visit options to include evening and weekend tours as well as a virtual tour, implementing a call center, hiring a multi-cultural recruiter, waiving the application fee, revamping acceptance packets among other mailed communication pieces, and streamlining application processes.

"We are excited that work could help so many students discover GSW and make Americus their new home," stated Scott.

This was true for one new freshman whose college decision was reinforced when she was contacted by an admissions counselor and visited campus.

"When I came to Preview Day, it was very welcoming and I loved the small campus," said GSW freshman Angel Andrews, a nursing major from Kennesaw, Ga. "I feel more at home here than I did on those bigger campuses that I toured. Another thing that really caught my eye was nursing's GAP program. I was emailed by someone in Admissions, and I'm really glad they did that because I didn't even know about it."

Lastly, the branding refresh launched at the end of 2018 allowed for new and improved branding opportunities and increased advertising in key recruitment areas. Digital campaigns targeting high school juniors and seniors as well as their parents have produced great results with increased campus visits and applications.

In his August Assembly address to faculty and staff, President Weaver proudly reported all the campus efforts proved effective when freshman applications were up almost 35%, after a 22% increase the previous year.

The final count for Fall 2020 enrollment will be published by the University System of Georgia later this semester.