The William Carey University campus in Hattiesburg is a busy place, even during the summer months, as university officials celebrate a record enrollment and look forward to the completion of numerous building projects.
The university kicked off summer classes on June 1, and those enrollment numbers broke a school record.
Total enrollment stands at 2,595 students, which is up 400 students from the same time period last year. Officials said the previous record was 2,501 students in 2011.
The largest enrollment gains were in the School of Education and in the Joseph and Nancy Fail School of Nursing. The education school saw an enrollment increase of 35 percent, and the nursing school marked an enrollment increase of 18 percent.
Dr. Tommy King, William Carey president, said he was pleased with the record-setting numbers and the loyalty of William Carey students.
“In this uncertain time, it is refreshing to know that students continue to advance their careers,” said King. “It is not surprising that the largest increases are in programs that lead directly to employment.”
Dr. Ben Burnett, acting executive vice president and dean of the education school, said the enrollment jump can be attributed – in part – to recent changes in licensure requirements by the Mississippi Department of Education.
The department recently suspended the requirement for licensure exams as an entry point into teacher education for the undergraduate level and for the alternate route program. The suspension applies through December 2021.
“The licensure guideline changes issued amid the pandemic helped clear the path for many who wanted to pursue a career in education,” said Burnett.
Burnett also said that, despite any uncertainties that may be associated with COVID-19, he is expecting a record enrollment for the fall term.
Officials have yet to decide if in-person classes will resume in the fall, and summer classes are meeting in online-only formats.
“I am thrilled to see this enrollment increase for the summer ... and also the one we expect in the fall as we work to move the university forward,” he said.
Officials are also excited about the university’s steady recovery from a January 2017 tornado that destroyed six campus buildings and damaged 49 others.
One report estimated that the tornado, which registered as an EF-3 on the Fujita Scale, left behind $110 million in damage. The 113-year-old administration building, known as Tatum Court, was among the destroyed buildings, and officials held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Tatum Court in July 2019.
Since then, construction has been steadily progressing on a new three-story Student Center. The new building, which is expected to open this year, will include offices, lounges and study areas, a student recreation center and a diner.
University officials have also started construction on a new 74,000-square-foot Health Sciences Building, which will allow further growth for the College of Health Sciences and its nursing, physical therapy and other health programs.
The building is located at the northeast corner of the intersection of Tuscan Avenue and Cherry Street. It is expected to open in the fall of 2021.
The buildings vacated by the health programs, including Fail-Asbury Hall, Mary Ross Hall and Thomas Hall, will be used by the College of Osteopathic Medicine, which recently announced plans to double its enrollment from 400 students to 800 by the 2022-2023 school year.