PARKERSBURG - College students in the Mid-Ohio Valley have spent the last several days getting ready for the start of the fall semester at West Virginia University at Parkersburg and Ohio Valley University.
Classes started Monday at WVU-P, while OVU students are spending the first two days of the week in registration activities before beginning classes on Wednesday.
Connie Dziagwa, WVU-P's executive director for institutional advancement, said classes started Monday although students can register through Friday. The college won't have final enrollment numbers for the fall semester for a couple of weeks, she said.
Photos by Wayne Towner
Rodney Wooten, at right, library director at Ohio Valley University, talks with freshmen Monday night at the 'OVU Exposition' freshman orientation program. After holding student registrations Monday and today, classes at the school will begin Wednesday.
"We do know that at this point we are showing an increase, so we do expect we will have an increase in enrollment from last year, and last year had a pretty significant increase (over the previous year)," she said. "We don't anticipate we'll have quite that increase for this fall, but we do expect an increase."
In fall 2009, the college experienced a 15 percent enrollment increase, one of the larger fall increases in its nearly 50-year history. It marked the largest fall-to-fall increase since 1975. More than 550 additional students enrolled in classes for the fall and the total headcount was nearly 4,300.
Dziagwa said a lot of the enrollment increase being seen this fall and last fall comes from displaced workers seeking retraining following layoffs and shutdowns in local industries. WVU-P had more than 400 of those last fall and expects to see a similar number this year, she said.
The college is seeing a larger number of veterans taking courses and more younger students taking their first year or two of college close to home before transferring to a residential college elsewhere, she said.
Mineral Wells resident Amber Summers was on campus Monday, beginning her second year in the college's accounting degree program.
She likes the location and convenience of the college, along with its on-campus day care program which is helpful to her.
Summers said the thing she's most looking forward in the new school year is "graduating next summer."
WVU-P is holding events this week to welcome students to the campus. The Student Government Association was giving away gifts in the cafeteria, including novels, supplies and other items Monday and will do so again from 9 a.m to 1 p.m. Thursday.
Free ice cream will given away during lunch today and a street-sign creation event will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday in the student lounge.
WVU-P will hold its New Students Convocation at 11 a.m. next Monday in the multi-purpose room. The keynote speaker will be Brian Noland, chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.
"It's just a way for all new students to start the school year off together and Dr. Noland will bring some inspirational comments to the new students," Dziagwa said of the convocation. "It's not just freshmen who will be here, it's just any student who is new here so there may be students who are transfers."
The new school year at WVU-P includes a new bachelor's of science degree in criminal justice along with programs related to solar energy which will be offered for the first time this fall. Dziagwa said those programs have received a lot of interest, especially the criminal justice degree, and the college continues expanding its online and other course offerings.
There was a lot of activity on campus Monday from those beginning classes and those doing their own registration and preparations.
A new rule for the fall semester requires students who drive to WVU-P to have a parking permit, which will be $20 a semester, Dziagwa said. The permit program will go into effect in September.
"That's new for us. The money that will be raised from that will be used to keep the parking lots up as far as maintenance is concerned and also safety issues," she said.
OVU began student registration activities Monday and continues today, with regular classes beginning on Wednesday.
As part of the orientation process for incoming freshmen, Kathy Muller, dean of student success at OVU, said local businesses, banks, churches and other vendors joined some of the college's departments and programs to offer "OVU Exposition" Monday night.
"Things have gone very smoothly but very enthusiastically," Muller said of the day's events. "There's a lot of energy. I'm very impressed with the freshman class. They are friendly, they're warm, they're polite."