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AMERICUS, GA (June 25, 2020) — Summer 2020 represents the largest summer enrollment in the history of Georgia Southwestern State University (GSW). Despite the country facing the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, enrolled students are up more than 6% compared to last summer. These are the highest summer numbers ever recorded in the school's 114-year existence, and administrators expect enrollment to continue to trend upward into the Fall.

From graduating high school seniors to executives at high-level organizations, individuals were flocking to online classes this summer. GSW stated that almost every academic area was up with the biggest gains in graduate enrollment, specifically the MBA program, the M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education and the addition of the new Ed.S. in Teacher Leadership.

"In times of economic trouble, people turn to higher education as a path to a brighter future," said GSW President Neal Weaver, Ph.D. "With GSW's affordability, quality of instruction and personalized attention, we know many people will choose us as their destination for higher learning. This is certainly welcome news considering the decline that was predicted by industry experts because of COVID-19."

Carol Bishop, director of GSW's MBA program, notes the surge in summer enrollment can most likely be attributed to the flexibility of online course work that suits today's busy working professionals, as almost all of the MBA students work full-time and many have families.

"The increase in summer enrollment began around the same time COVID-19 shutdown started," said Bishop. "Applicants had time to consider their goals, and take action to achieve them. They appreciate the flexibility of the program and can adjust their schedule to fit their personal and professional situations."

One such online GSW student, Koren MacDonald, works as the human resources manager at a prominent hotel chain in Detroit, MI and is mom to three children. She said the worldwide pandemic gave her the nudge she needed to work towards obtaining her MBA. With the travel industry slowed, MacDonald wanted to make the most of having extra time on her hands.

"I started looking into MBA programs across the world," MacDonald said, "and found that Georgia Southwestern would allow me to complete my MBA completely online with an accredited institution. Pursuing this degree online will give me the flexibility to keep my commitments to my family and community. My hope is that investing this time into furthering my education will give me the competitive edge to navigate the post-COVID-19 business world."

"We might not be able to put our finger on one exact trend for the spike in enrollment," Weaver adds, "but in the end, we know it's an endorsement of the quality of online teaching our faculty are delivering. They are national leaders in GSW's top-ranked distance learning programs. When you factor together high-quality instruction and affordability, GSW quickly becomes one of the best values in the state and in the country."

"Despite the fact that some students and faculty alike were uneasy with the transition to teaching and learning in an online environment, both groups figured out how to be successful in the new modality," stated Suzanne Smith, PhD, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. "In fact, grades for spring semester were higher in many cases than they have been in previous semesters."

While the virtual environment has certainly been advantageous and allowed learning to continue, the on-campus experience is critically important, particularly for entering first-year students. It allows them to build a sense of community and develop the relationships they need in order to maximize the learning experience at GSW.

GSW plans to resume face-to-face instruction in August with safety and social distancing accommodations in place. Fall numbers are looking strong as well, and another surge in enrollment is expected. With SAT/ACT scores no longer required and the application fee waived through July 21, these numbers will continue to climb. GSW admissions counselors are available and ready to assist prospective students by phone and email. For more information, visit www.gsw.edu/admissions, email admissions@gsw.edu, or call 229-928-1273.

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