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Penn State Mont Alto enrollment balloons

August 24, 2010|By JENNIFER FITCH
  • Penn State Mont Alto freshmen Jordan Coldsmith, left, and Jordan "Fred" Bragunier spend time between classes in the school's Millstream Cafe.
Photo by Jennifer Fitch,

MONT ALTO, Pa. -- Classes started Monday for Penn State Mont Alto's largest incoming class of about 575 new students.

The freshmen and transfer students have brought overall enrollment to 1,360, exceeding the previous highest enrollment of 1,315 in 1999. Among the new students are five international students from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia.

University officials last spring approved the Mont Alto campus to host international students, Enrollment Management Director Michael Harp said.

Students from other countries have attended Penn State Mont Alto before, but they had established residence in the United States before starting school, he said.

"They're finding us on the Web. They know the name Penn State," Harp said.

Lauren Mosley and Keri Stine attended other Penn State campuses last year. Now, they're roommates at Penn State Mont Alto for their sophomore year.

"I like it a lot," said Stine, 19, of York, Pa.

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Mosley, 19, of Leesburg, Va., transferred from the Penn State Lehigh Valley campus, which was smaller. She said she wanted "to actually have the college experience." The school in Mont Alto is closer to home as well.

Chelsea Kyler, 18, of Sheffield, Pa., and Shane Strommer, 19, of Valley Forge, Pa., took an introductory course Monday morning for their forestry program.

"It's a cool campus," Strommer said.

"It's great. I like it," Kyler said.

Jordan Coldsmith, 18, and Jordan "Fred" Bragunier, 18, both graduated from Chambersburg (Pa.) Area Senior High School. They're studying engineering at Penn State Mont Alto.

"You've got to love nature to be here," Bragunier said. "There are beavers roaming around."

Like Penn State Mont Alto, the university system's largest campus, University Park, has considerable open space. Coldsmith said she's heard University Park students set a goal that they'll touch a squirrel before graduation.

Bragunier said he plans to take advantage of Penn State's "two plus two" program, in which he'll study at the Mont Alto campus two years before transferring to University Park.

That program continues to be a big draw for students, since the curriculum is the same systemwide and credits transfer, Harp said.

Also attracting students are new and expanded athletic programs as well as a new information sciences and technology program, some of which was developed with the National Security Agency, according to Harp.

He said the allied health classes continue to be well respected; occupational therapy enrollment is at an all-time high.

Dani Croussett, 20, is studying human development and family studies. The Philadelphia resident hopes to become a psychotherapist or social worker.

"There are so many options in this field," she said.

Croussett spent two years at another Penn State campus before transferring to Mont Alto last year.

"It is very quiet, and the staff are very nice. They guide you," she said.

Croussett said she saw many new faces at school in recent days and tried to help new students navigate the campus.

The 2009-10 academic year featured an exceptionally large incoming class as well, Harp said.

"We weren't sure if it'd happen again this year, but it ended up being another record class," he said.

The capacity of the campus is 1,500 students, Harp said. University officials mandate no more than 25 students can be in introductory classes for subjects such as math and English, he said.

Mont Alto asked professors to teach additional sessions and recruited adjunct professors for certain classes.

"We're teaching classes literally every hour of the day, excluding Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays," Harp said.

Wilson College, in Chambersburg, Pa., starts classes Aug. 30. Shepherd University in Jefferson County, W.Va., began last Monday, while Mountain State University in Martinsburg, W.Va., starts classes today.

Classes at nearby Shippensburg University begin next Monday.

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