According to Dalton State officials, things are looking up, maybe as high up as the new science building under construction that soars even higher than the college belltower.
After two years of declining enrollment, Dalton State numbers are holding steady, a positive sign for the school that prides itself on its access mission. “A number of factors converged that caused our enrollment to dip, but we start this year with our most academically qualified class of students yet,” said President Dr. John O. Schwenn. “Our goal is for these students to succeed here and to graduate in a timely manner.”
Not only is this year’s incoming class the most academically qualified, it’s also the most geographically diverse. So many students have come to campus from outside the immediate area that for the first time Dalton State’s residential housing has a wait list. “We started offering housing to students in 2009; at that time we had 250 beds in our Wood Valley apartment complex,” said Dr. Johnson. “This year, we converted several ‘doubles’ to ‘quads’ and increased our capacity to 289. We’re full and have a waiting list of 20 students.”
Student athletes account for much, but certainly not all of the increased demand for college housing. Athletic Director Derek Waugh reports that the return to intercollegiate athletics has attracted 110 student athletes to Dalton State. They come from 10 states and 12 different countries, Waugh said. About half the student athletes receive at least partial scholarships from the Mashburn Charitable Trust, which has pledged $3 million over 10 years for athletic scholarships for Dalton State.
“Because Dalton State is so affordable, scholarship dollars go a long way here,” said Dr. Schwenn, who pointed out that the U.S. Department of Education has ranked Dalton State among the top 10 percent of four year colleges in the nation for low tuition and fees and lowest net price, the out of pocket cost for college after scholarships and other financial aid are taken out.
“Affordability is key to our access mission of making a college education within the economic grasp of most families,” said Dr. Schwenn. “We know our low cost attracts many of our students here, but it is the high value education and experience we offer that keeps students here.”
“Many of the freshmen who start today will be members of the graduating class of 2017, our fiftieth anniversary year,” said Dr. Schwenn. While the core of the campus remains much as it was when Dalton Junior College first opened its doors, little else remains the same.
The campus has been extended north and south, and the four original campus buildings are flanked today by classroom buildings, the library, a quad, and residential housing. The new science building should be completed by year’s end, and work is underway to identify an architectural firm to renovate the former technical education building to house the College’s School of Health Professions.
The first students to attend Dalton Junior College could choose from 10 transfer programs; today’s students can select from 17 bachelor’s degree and 21 associate degree programs, with two more degree programs in the pipeline. Several students have registered for the College’s first online bachelor’s degree program, and the Board of Regents just this week approved Dalton State’s proposal to offer a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
“Much has changed since our charter was written 50 years ago, but one thing that has not changed is the transformative power of a Dalton State education,” Dr. Schwenn said. “We hear it from our students, and we see the many ways in which Dalton State graduates are transforming the world with their accomplishments. ”