By Johnny Jackson
Students running late are lucky to find a parking space near their class at Clayton State University in the morning. It is nothing extraordinary for a growing college, except some students say parking is heavier for evening classes.
At Clayton State, nontraditional students are as much a presence on the culturally diverse campus as traditional students, adding heft and enriched culture to the school's projected record enrollment.
Narem Reddy of the Office of Institutional Research at Clayton State projects the university student enrollment will reach nearly 6,300 this year.
This marks the seventh straight year for increased enrollment at the university, an increase of about 47 percent since 1998. And the result of which is a record number of faculty. That is, 29 are new faculty positions.
According to Angela Avery-Jones, assistant director of student life, the spike in attendance correlates to a spike in diversity.
True enough, the school ranked number one as the most diverse comprehensive baccalaureate institution in the Southern Region, according to the 2006 U.S. News & World Report.
This fall, the Clayton State campus is 30 percent male, 70 percent female, with only 54 percent full-time students. The racial demographics across the campus are: 5 percent Asian, 51 percent black, 6 percent multi-racial, 35 percent white, and 3 percent other.
"I'm seeing a lot of different students," said Avery-Jones. "More students are coming with more ideas. It's brought a newness to the campus, and it's providing us with more academic programs and extracurricular."
Robin Hollingsworth is a police officer in Clayton County in her fourth year attending Clayton State to obtain a Forensic Biology degree. As a part-time student, she represents the 46 percent who are not full time at the University. She said opportunity and advancement may be major reasons enrollment has increased.
"In order for me to go farther, I need my college education. I think sooner or later, everybody will be going back to college," she said, referring to her non-traditional status at the university. "It's interesting because it's culturally diverse, but it's also age-diverse."
The school has also done comparatively well according to incoming freshmen standardized test scores. Last fall, entering freshmen averaged an SAT score of 994 and an ACT score of 19.4.
Stephanie Reyes, a freshman at Clayton State and a recent Jonesboro High School graduate, believes the school's reputation, name change, and growth in the area have something to do with increased enrollment. She too was impressed by the colorful campus personality.
"It's very multi-cultural," she said. "There are lots of colors. And the technology is amazing compared to other schools."
Avery-Jones admitted there seems to be a revived student life on the Clayton State campus.
"I see an increase in participation on campus," she said. "I see more organizations starting on campus. I see more Greek life on campus. I see students here as soon as I walk through the door and I see them when I walk out to leave."