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Clayton College's freshmen class expected to break record

By Ed Brock

Pausing for lunch in a busy day of orientation on Saturday, incoming freshman at Clayton College and State University Ashley Norris jokes with her mother about her reasons for choosing the school.

"I heard they had a good nursing program and it wasn't too far from home," Norris said, laughing when her mother Belinda Norris agrees with the second half of the statement.

But nearness is not the only reason why Belinda and Doug Norris, who live in McDonough, want their 18-year-old daughter to go to the school.

"It's a growing college and there's lots of opportunities for them here," Belinda Norris said.

Clayton College officials are expecting the trend of record enrollment at the college that began in fall 2002 to continue as 4,232 students had applied for the fall 2003 semester as of July 18. There were 3,688 applicants for the fall semester by Aug. 26 of last year.

"Based on the large number of applicants we are working with, we expect the same type of increase in the fall that we've had for the last couple of years," said the college's interim Assistant Vice President of Enrollment Services Diane Burns. "Some predictions, based on retention and previous enrollments, have gone as high as 6,200."

In 2001, the same year that Clayton College President Thomas K. Harden announced his "7 in 7" goal of having 7,000 students enrolled by 2007, enrollment for the spring semester increased 5.7 percent over enrollment from the previous year with 4,700 students. The enrollment rate increased another 11.5 percent in the fall semester of 2002 when a record-setting 5,214 students enrolled in the school.

By the spring 2003 semester with 5,555 students the college's enrollment increased 18.2 percent over the 2001 spring semester.

One reason for that, according to school administrators, is the increased number of baccalaureate programs that were aimed at better preparing the students for the modern job market.

Some of the freshme at Saturday's orientation picked the schools because of specific programs, like Ashley Norris and her friend 18-year-old Candice Smith of Locust Grove.

"They have a good dental hygiene program and it's a good school to graduate from," Smith said.

Sam Martin, 18, of Stockbridge said he would study drafting and design at the school, but Josh Shoaf of Ellenwood,who was sitting with Martin during the lunch break, aid he was undecided.

"It's cheap, small and close," Martin said in listing his reasons for picking Clayton College.

Those were some of the same reasons 19-year-old Carley Kleckner of Peachtree City, also undecided about her major, gave for coming to the school.

"It was close and I can live at home, and it was small," Kleckner said.

Tradition was one thing that brought Colin Pierce, 18, of Fayetteville to the college in Morrow.

"My brother and his friends went here and I wanted to get started before I transferred to Georgia State (University)," Pierce said.