Last year, freshman enrollment at Lander University broke records. This year, it broke them again, Lander President Richard Cosentino said this week in his State of the University address.
Cosentino said that the freshman class, which totaled 768 last year, increased to 870 this year. He said that enrollment for the institution as a whole stands at 3,053, just 16 students shy of the all-time high.
"People in every county in the state want to come to Lander because we are a great institution," he said.
Cosentino's words are borne out by U.S. News and World Report's annual rankings of schools, which have just been released. Lander was ranked #3 in the publication's Top Public Schools - Regional Colleges South category. It was also ranked among the ten best colleges for veterans.
Cosentino said that he would like to increase enrollment beyond 3,100, in part through the expansion of Lander's online and graduate studies programs.
One thing driving the recent increases in enrollment is the decision two years ago to freeze tuition, housing and other fees, which will save students an estimated $7.2 million. "Students and their parents know just what it's going to cost to go to school here," he said.
Lander's fundraising efforts are expected to be bolstered by the hiring of a new vice president for University Advancement, which Cosentino said is imminent.
"Why is this important? To keep the costs down for our students. We want to make sure that we can provide quality scholarship dollars for you," Cosentino said, specifically addressing the students in the audience.
Cosentino wants to focus on increasing Lander's student retention rate. "You don't want a student to come here and borrow money and then not graduate," he said. He promised that in the year to come he would focus on retention of students "every day."
The State of South Carolina is generously providing the funds for the renovation of 94 classrooms at Lander. Cosentino said that state legislators "know what our mission is, and they believe in us."
Other additions to Lander's infrastructure include a new student lounge, a new air conditioning system for the Cultural Center and Student Center, a new university-wide phone system and a new, improved website.
Although he considers Lander a safe campus, he intends to ask the state for funds to add additional police officers, vehicles and equipment. The safety of Lander students, faculty and staff is "our highest priority," he said.
Cosentino said that Lander's acquisition of the American Legion building on Calhoun Avenue and the repurposing of the Wellness Works building will provide additional space for the Lander community.
He mentioned several notable additions, including the introduction of men's and women's lacrosse teams, men's and women's cross country teams, the women's golf team and the men's wrestling team.
"These teams have been highly requested by our students, their parents and the Greenwood community. We think it's going to be a lot of fun watching them along with our other teams. We want to maximize the use of our beautiful athletic facilities," he said.
The most important thing that happened last year, according to the president, was the reaffirmation of Lander's accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) for the next 10 years. Re-accreditation, he said, "is a big deal."
Cosentino dedicated his address to Lander President Emeritus Dr. Larry A. Jackson, who passed away last year, calling him a "mentor" and a "friend." He recognized Jackson's widow, Barbara, who was present in the audience.