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Mont Alto campus welcomes its biggest freshman class

August 24, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

MONT ALTO, Pa. -- Monday was the first day of classes for Penn State Mont Alto students, nearly 600 of whom comprise the biggest freshman class to date for the campus.

Alana Rinehart, 18, said she's already enjoyed meeting new people, all of whom she says have been friendly and helpful. Although Rinehart was comforted by being able to share a room with her best friend, she still suffered nervousness for the start of school.

"It's kind of intimidating to start at a brand new school," said Rinehart, who has not declared a major.

An increased percentage of students is entering Penn State Mont Alto without declared majors, according to Kate Bashaw, assistant director of admissions. Also increasing in popularity are the occupational therapy assistant and engineering programs, she said.

A number of sophomores, juniors and seniors chose to move off campus this year to new apartments nearby. Apex Housing Group opened its apartment buildings before the start of this academic year.

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When those students committed to off-campus housing, more spots opened in the college's residence halls. Bashaw said the residence halls are full, with 450 of the campus's 1,200 students living in them.

Bashaw speculated that more students are choosing Penn State Mont Alto because, as a state school, it's less expensive than most private colleges for Pennsylvania students. Also, students can start their college career at a small campus and easily transfer to Penn State University's main campus later.

The campus is hosting 574 new students this year, a 12 percent increase over last fall's number of new students.

Rinehart's guidance counselor in Hanover, Pa., told her about the school.

"I came up one day, and it was beautiful," she said.

Nick Peterson, 18, chose to commute 15 minutes from his home in Orrtanna, Pa. On Monday, he started a class schedule that includes psychology, music, and Physical Therapy 101 and 102. Peterson was interested in the field and shadowed a physical therapist.

"I'm a people person, and I'm hands-on," he said.

The first day of classes went well, Peterson said. They were made easier because friends also enrolled at Penn State Mont Alto, he said.

While he chose the school largely for its proximity to home, Peterson said he's excited the choice did carry an extra benefit -- better access to Penn State football season tickets.

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