SPARTANBURG—Move over, sophomores. At 499 strong, the freshman class at Spartanburg Methodist College just took the record for the largest group of new first-time college students since SMC’s founding in 1911.
Their ranks helped swell the total number of students (freshmen and sophomores) to 837, which is the largest enrollment since 2001.
The 499 first-time freshmen total breaks last year’s record-setting 496 first-time freshmen class, and, like last year, doesn’t include transfer students and former SMC students who are returning to the college. Counting those students, the incoming class totaled 543 after the Aug. 28 deadline to drop or add classes, which set another college record for the largest-ever incoming class.
Julie Lanford, director of admissions, said a new enrollment management system allowed college staff to more easily assist prospective students this year.
“Nearly 40 percent of our students are the first in their families to attend college, and they may not have a parent who can help guide them through the college process,” she said. “We’re now able to quickly identify students with incomplete applications or who may be in danger of missing a deadline, and reach out to help.”
Of these, 553, or 66 percent, of SMC students live in one of the college’s seven residence halls. Despite having 37 additional students this fall, the college was still able to house every student who wanted to live on campus, said Teresa Ferguson, dean of students.
“We renovated a number of rooms last year,” she said. “We can also easily reconfigure rooms to house additional students as needed.”
For President Scott Cochran, the increasing numbers of students are consistent with his plan to grow SMC’s enrollment to 1,000 by 2020. By then, the college will have launched a new bachelor’s degree program. In the meantime, SMC faculty and staff have been preparing for more students since 2016, when the college created a master plan that includes new classroom and housing facilities.
“Enrolling 150 additional new students over the next two years is a reasonable target given everything we’re putting in place to attract them, including a unique bachelor’s degree that will give our students an 18-to-24-month advantage over other recent graduates in the workplace,” Cochran said. “It’s an exciting time to be at SMC.”