SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — For the first time, incoming Shepherd University freshmen this year will be able to graduate in four years with 120 credits rather than the 128 needed by their predecessors.
That's just one of the changes students will find this month as they enter or return to colleges and universities in the Tri-State area.
Some other changes:
• Students 18 and older at Penn State's Mont Alto, Pa., campus will have Zipcars available to them during the school year.
Zipcar Inc., a leading car-sharing network, offers vehicles for rent at hourly and daily rates. The service is being offered as a convenience for the 400-plus students who live on campus, many of whom don't have cars.
"We are pleased to partner with Zipcar and firmly believe its car-sharing model has the potential to further enhance the student experience," School Chancellor David Gnage said in a statement.
Enrollment of the new freshmen class is down by about 60 students over last year's incoming class, school spokeswoman Kristie Fry said.
• Shippensburg (Pa.) University will offer their 8,200-plus undergraduate and graduate students an expanded student union building, school spokesman Pete Gigliotti said.
The university also will begin construction of a $200 million residence hall expansion that will be completed in 2015.
Shippensburg is also introducing a Bachelor of Science degree in computer engineering that Gigliotti said will have wide appeal among traditional and nontraditional students.
• At Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pa., Barbara Mistick has taken over as the school's new president, replacing the retired Lorna Duphiney Edmundson.
Mistick comes to Wilson from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, where she was president for five years.
Wilson has set up a new easier-to-use website designed to attract prospective students and better promote the college story, said Cathy Mentzer, college spokeswoman.
Wilson also hopes to offer a Master of Education degree online and in a traditional setting, she said.
• Enrollment at Shepherd University is "up, but not dramatically," President Suzanne Shipley said. She could not offer specific numbers this early in the year "because there's too many drops and adds," she said.
But she noted that the university's resident halls are full to capacity for the first time, including Birch and Maple, the newest on campus. Shepherd's resident hall capacity is 1,300.
White Hall and Knutti Hall, campus academic buildings, have been through extensive renovations in recent years. This year it was Snyder Hall's turn for replacement heating and air-conditioning systems and new energy-efficient windows.
Next year, work crews will tear into Stutzman-Slonaker Hall for similar renovations.
"These historic buildings need attention and the state realizes that," Shipley said.
The cost of the renovations is being shared equally by the university and the state, she said.
Construction will begin next month on the second of three buildings making up the Center for Contemporary Arts.
Also earmarked for construction starting in February is the $4 million underpass under W.Va. 480 connecting the east and west campuses. Designed for student safety when they cross the busy road, the underpass will be finished in time for the start of the 2012-13 school year, officials have said.
Shepherd is bringing in 20 new full-time faculty members for the start of this school year, Shipley said. Ten are new positions and 10 are replacing teachers who retired or otherwise left the campus.