Mercer program in Newnan growing
by W. Winston Skinner
Mercer University’s satellite program in Newnan is growing.
Dr. Penny Elkins, senior vice president for enrollment management, talked about the growth of the Newnan project when alumni and supporters of Mercer University met recently for a dinner at Newnan Country Club.
“We started the program in 2010 in Newnan. We had 12 students,” Elkins said. “Now we’ve grown to about 100.” She said a health care information major will be added to the Newnan offerings this fall.
In addition to its campus in Macon, Mercer offers classes at seven other places – Atlanta, Savannah, Newnan, Henry County, Douglas, Columbus and Eastman.
About 200 people attended the April 14 event at Newnan Country Club which offered a view of “the direction in which Mercer is headed,” said Judge W. Homer Drake, who welcomed the guests and served as master of ceremonies for the evening.
Drake noted there were alumni from many decades at the dinner as well as students “who will be attending Mercer this fall or who are contemplating attending Mercer at some point in the future.”
Drake talked about the academic strength of Mercer. “Mercer’s national profile has never been higher,” he said. “Another direction in which Mercer’s trajectory is moving upward is enrollment.”
For the past two years, Mercer has had its largest freshman classes ever. “We’re experiencing tremendous momentum across the university,” Elkins said.
The addition of football as a collegiate sport gave an extra burst of excitement. “Mercer was already experiencing tremendous momentum and growth,” Elkins said.
During the last 10 years, Mercer has experienced a 16 percent growth rate. Currently, the university has more than 8,300 students.
“That’s absolutely incredible. That’s growth you’re seeing year after year after year,” Elkins said. The growth has been in undergraduate and professional programs.
There were 728 incoming freshmen last fall. “A lot of people say that’s the heartbeat of the university,” Elkins said. This past year’s class was 13 percent larger than the previous year’s.
“We’ve had three really good years. Over the past three years, we’ve grown 29 percent in new freshman headcount,” Elkins said. “They’re going to have a fantastic educational experience.”
William Underwood, Mercer’s president, was firm about the school’s commitment to providing experiences that positively impact individual students. “Learning works best in a personal, intimate environment,” he said.
Maintaining class sizes and approaches that provide that are “what we’re committee to,” he said.
Jill Kinsella, executive director of the Mercer Alumni Association, introduced Drake is a lifetime trustee at Mercer as well as an alum. “Only four of them are living now,” Kinsella said of the school’s lifetime trustees.
Kinsella also spoke of the ongoing support of Mercer and advocacy for the university from Drake and his wife, Ruth. “A more dedicated Mercerian you will not find,” she said.