With growth comes growing pains, a common phrase a person hears once or a few times in their lives while they are growing up. The same can be said at the University of West Georgia, where continued growth presents future problems and concerns for the campus community.
Each year, the university experiences record student enrollment increases by admitting a large group of first year students and offering more graduate programs. This past fall, UWG reached a major milestone by having 12,820 students in total enrollment, a 500 plus increase from the previous school year.
“Our goal was to grow at about four percent this year,” said Dr. John Head, associate vice president for enrollment management. “We’ve ended up growing about five percent.”
The milestone comes as a part of goal set by UWG’s President Kyle Marrero to have 15,000 students enrolled by 2020. This comes from a larger state wide initiative from Governor Nathan Deal entitled “Complete College Georgia.” It pushes for continued growth in Georgia’s universities and colleges.
“What this means is that by the year 2020, across the State of Georgia, they want a 250,000 increase in the number of students who have credentials,” said Head. “Whether it’s a bachelor degree, associate degree or technical program, all of that is in plan to make sure the Georgia work force is prepared.”
Head hopes that UWG continues to grow by three to four percent each year. He strives to have 13,000 students enrolled by fall 2016.
“Our campus is a great place to be with beautiful facilities and friendly people,” he said. “Our Admissions department has done a great job in getting students from areas we traditionally do not get many students from, as well as the Center for Advising and Academic Success for keeping our students on track once they get here.”
But with growth comes needs. While UWG wants and welcomes continued growth, there are some major concerns that will have to be address in the future. Some concerns are the construction and renovations of academic buildings, increases in courses and degrees offered and, most importantly, the demand for more faculty and staff members.
“Part of our request to the system office was for more faculty and staff lines,” he said. “We want to make sure that we continue to provide the best services to students as we continue to grow.”
Long waiting lines at campus food venues, increased traffic, longer waiting times for student services, parking woes and larger classes are a few of many topics in the conversations of students that are displaying frustrations with the quality of services they are paying for. Head acknowledge that the administration is working hard daily to address these issues.
“Some of the things that we are looking at is extending the hours of some of our offices,” Head said. “We are now keeping some of our offices, such as Financial Aid, open to about 7 p.m., so that students can have a longer window to go in.”
“We’re also making sure that we have enough employees as well as faculty to address student demands and maintain our student-teacher ratio,” he also said. “We now have some faculty and staff members working four 10-hour days while other work five 8-hour days.”
The addition of more evening classes were also implemented this school year to address the heavy demand of students wanting to take classes during the mid-day.
“This keeps us from having to build additional classrooms,” he said. “We’re adding classes later in the day as well as early in the morning.
While the push for 15,000 students is in the making, Head assures that significant amount of growth will not all happen at the Carrollton campus, but will include the UWG Newnan campus and the expansion online programs offered.