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Penn State campus sees enrollment surge

November 18, 2007|By DON AINES

MONT ALTO, Pa. - Enrollment at the Penn State Mont Alto campus was up 14 percent this fall, the largest increase of any of the 24 campuses in the university system and, with 1,204 students, the third-largest enrollment in the college's 104-year history.

Several years ago, enrollment was higher because of a graduate studies program aimed at teachers that no longer is offered, said Holly Cieri, the campus public relations and marketing coordinator.

"Penn State has been making a big push to become the most popular in the nation," Cieri said. "It's been a very intentional push here" with the college doing more recruiting in Washington County, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and other areas outside Pennsylvania, she said.

The number of Washington County students, for example, rose from four to 22 as Mont Alto began offering in-state tuition rates to students from that county, Cieri said.

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Vermont has been another target for recruitment, although it has yielded just one student so far, Cieri said.

Why target the Green Mountain State?

"Vermont allows students to take their financial-aid packages out of state," Cieri said.

The forestry program at Mont Alto and similar wooded atmosphere to that New England state are two other reasons students from Vermont might look to the campus for their education, she said.

Kathy Le, a freshman from Mount Olive, N.J., who is studying finance, said she was accepted at several schools in the Garden State, "but I wanted to get away, and this is one of the best colleges in the nation."

Le said she applied to other Penn State campuses, but housing was available at Mont Alto. Eventually, she plans to transfer to the main campus in State College, Pa.,

Mont Alto can house up to 450 students in three residential halls, but there was a waiting list of nearly 100 students before school started. As spaces became available, students on the waiting list were notified, and the college also has an online list of off-campus housing.

"Those are not university-sanctioned," Cieri said. "We advise parents and students to check them out for themselves."

Additional on-campus housing is not in the 10-year plan the college adopted about two years ago, Cieri said. However, Educational Property Group Inc. of Exton, Pa., a company that develops off-campus student housing, is looking at a nearby property as a possible site for suites to house 100 or more students, she said.

Corey Truett of Chambersburg, Pa., enrolled at the Mont Alto campus because "I kind of wanted to start off at a smaller school ... and get used to college life," she said. "I didn't want to put too much stress on myself," said Truett, who eventually wants to transfer to the main campus and then go on to law school.

"There has been a push here to keep our students on campus longer," Cieri said, citing another reason for increased enrollment. The college now offers bachelor's degrees in five majors - business administration, English, letters, arts and sciences, human development and family studies, and nursing.

Pragmatism often is the simplest explanation for why a student chooses to come to Mont Alto.

"Mont Alto is one of the only Penn State campuses that has the physical therapy program ... and this is the closest to Harrisburg (Pa.)," said Sarah Sherick, now in her second year at Mont Alto.

"The only thing I'd like is more to do around the campus," Sherick said, noting the lack of night life in the surrounding community.

Abbey Jacobs, also from Harrisburg, transferred to Mont Alto from Millersville (Pa.) University to study physical therapy. She also said there was a bit of adjusting to do when she came to the rural campus.

"It was a little shocking going from 10,000 people living on campus to 600," Jacobs said.

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