Dr. John Schwenn: Much To Celebrate At Dalton State

Friday, September 06, 2013 - by Dr. John Schwenn
Dr. John Schwenn
Dr. John Schwenn

We have much to celebrate at Dalton State.

After two years of declining enrollments, furloughs, and layoffs, I am encouraged and optimistic that Dalton State has hit its low point and is on its way up. It is a bit like turning a battleship; it has been a long process, and we have endured some choppy waters, but we’ve made some course corrections and are headed for smoother sailing. Consider the following:

  • Our enrollment for fall is flat which is welcome after two consecutive fall declines of eight percent. Not only are we enrolling more students, our student population is more likely to succeed here and graduate in a timely manner.

There are several strong indicators among our fall enrollment: enrollment of new students is up 15 percent, and dual enrollment (students enrolled in both high school and college classes) has grown 26 percent.

  • Students who start with us this fall are, as a group, more academically qualified than they have previously been. Because of new admission criteria adopted by Dalton State and other state colleges throughout Georgia, we turned away more than 200 applicants who would have been admitted two years ago.

As an access institution it is painful to say “no” to students who want to attend Dalton State. Thankfully, we can refer those students to our partner in higher education, Georgia Northwestern Technical College. Some of those students may eventually transfer to Dalton State, or they may graduate with a degree or certificate from GNTC. Our admitted students recorded an eight percent drop in the number of remedial classes needed, another indication of the preparedness of this year’s class.

  • Our retention rate for first-time, full-time students is improving, rising 14 percent in just the last two years. This fall we have a 12 percent increase in our number of juniors and seniors, again demonstrating a more stable student population that is making steady progress toward graduation.
  • Nearly 70 percent of our freshmen class report they are first generation college students.
  • For the first time ever, we have a wait list for student housing. We opened student housing in 2009 with 237 beds. This year we converted several “doubles” to “quads” and increased our capacity to 289. We are full.
  • We have 110 student athletes on campus. Most of these students were attracted to Dalton State because of the return of intercollegiate athletics. They come from nine states and 13 countries. About half our student athletes receive at least partial scholarships from the Mashburn Charitable Trust, which has pledged $3 million over 10 years for student athletic scholarships to Dalton State.

Our women’s volleyball team made history when it played Southern Wesleyan in the first Roadrunner match of the modern era. The return of intercollegiate athletics has brought new excitement and vibrancy to Dalton State; we cannot wait for our basketball, golf, tennis, cross country, and cheer teams to launch their seasons.

  • Our students can choose from 17 bachelor’s degree programs, three added within the past six months. One of our new bachelor’s programs is delivered completely online for the benefit of working learners. In addition to the bachelor’s programs, we offer 21 associate degree programs.
  • We have been recognized as one of the most affordable four-year colleges in the country and as a “low debt” school. We know our low cost attracts many of our students to Dalton State, but it is the high value education and experience we offer that keeps our students here.
  • Steady progress is being made on our beautiful new science building now under construction, and architectural plans will be drawn soon to renovate our old technical building into a gleaming new home of our School of Health Professions.

Much has changed, but what has never changed is the ability of a Dalton State education to transform lives. We hear it from our students, and we see the many ways in which Dalton State graduates are transforming the world with their accomplishments.

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Dr. John O. Schwenn is the president of Dalton State College.


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