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College ready to welcome students
Fall enrollment up 40 percent at local UNG campus
Melissa Furnish, assistant professor of nursing, adjusts mannequins used by her students in preparation for the start of fall semester on Monday. - photo by Crystal Ledford

Melissa Furnish was busy Friday morning getting everything ready for her first-year nursing students who will arrive for classes Monday at University of North Georgia’s Cumming campus.

Furnish said the days leading up to the start of a new academic year are always exciting, but they may be more so at the local site, which opened in summer 2012.

“I love it down here,” Furnish said Friday while organizing nursing supplies and readying practice mannequins.

“My favorite days are the first day, because [the nursing students] are just so excited, and then pinning, at the end [program].”  

Jason Pruitt, executive director of the local campus, said this fall semester will be busy for everyone at the campus off Pilgrim Mill Road near Ga. 400 at Exit 16. He noted that this semester’s enrollment is up about 40 percent from spring.

“We’re currently sitting at 651 students and that doesn’t include all of our graduate students, so we will get close to 700 by the time it’s all said and done,” he said.

“We’re really pleased. Last year we opened with 500, which was more than we expected, and this fall we’re going to be close to 700. So we’re definitely growing fast.”

About 100 of those are graduate students, 70 or so are high-schoolers in the college’s dual enrollment program, and the remainder are undergraduates working on core requirements.

Last spring, the campus completed a new parking lot, which Pruitt said should come in handy.

“We have 200 parking spaces and if [the students] were all here at the same time, we’d definitely need more parking, but I don’t think it’ll be a problem,” he said, noting that students take classes on different days and at various times throughout the day and evening.

If the two lots behind the campus are full, students can use overflow parking nearby.

“The aquatic center has been a great neighbor in letting us use their upper parking lot, and I’m sure we’ll need that next week,” Pruitt said.

The campus’ growing student body has also meant the addition of new staff. Pruitt said an employee recently came onboard to man the information desk and help out as needed. In addition, another position is “in the works.”

“That will be an academic adviser that we really need here to help our students make sure they get in the right classes,” he said.

Although the campus is still relatively new, Pruitt said an expansion may not be long in the future.

“We’re currently doing some research to see what our true capacity is because we’ve never done a formal capacity study here,” he said. “We want to see what our capacity is, because when you get to 75 or 80 percent of your capacity, that’s sort of the tipping point for needing more space and needing to expand.

“I think expanding is a real possibility … within the next couple of years if the growth continues at this pace.”

In the meantime, Pruitt and the rest of the faculty and staff are eager for students to fill the existing space.

“There’s just something about all the energy and excitement coming from the students, so we’re definitely excited about getting them back,” he said.