Harding reports growth, enrollment increase

— Harding University has had a record enrollment for 25 consecutive years, and this year’s expected enrollment of 7,000 students will be up from last year’s 6,810.

“In the last seven years, Harding’s enrollment has averaged growing by more than 200 students per year,” said Heather Williams, director of news services at Harding.

University President David B. Burks credited the increased enrollment to new programs and relatively low tuition.

“The variety of programs has some impact, and the health sciences are attracting new students we wouldn’t normally have,” Burks said. “We have a relatively low tuition [compared to] other private universities. We are seen by parents as a good value, and we also have generous scholarships.”

This will be the fourth year for Harding’s pharmacy program, and it will graduate its first class in May. A new doctoral program in physical therapy received accreditation approval this month, and classes in the program will begin next week. Burks said recruiting students for the physical therapy program was a challenge without the accreditation being finalized.

With all the increases in enrollment comes a need for campus housing to also increase. The university has been remodeling its existing housing and making plans to construct new housing.

The Mabee Business Center has undergone a yearlong $4 million expansion, and a 21,000-square foot, $1.6 million expansion was added to the Ganus Athletic Center. The athletic center expansion contains a locker room, a weight room and a meeting area for the football program, plus offices, classrooms and other facilities for the school’s athletic training program. The project is scheduled to be completed by Oct. 1.

The $4 million renovation of Stephens Residence Hall was completed over the summer. The building houses 240 female students, and the renovation includes a new pitched roof that replaced the flat roof, and a more-efficient heating-and-cooling system. The exterior facade of the building was changed to match the architectural look of surrounding buildings, including use of more energy-efficient windows. Interior changes include new decor in the lobby areas, new color schemes and new plumbing throughout the building.

“It’s tough to do that much work in 10 weeks,” Burks said about the summer projects.

In addition to the renovations, Burks said, plans are in the works for the construction of some new apartments on the campus.

Twenty new two-bedroom apartments are scheduled to be completed by fall 2012. There will also be 72 new 1,135-square-foot apartments built on the west side of the campus in 20 buildings that Burks likens to a subdivision.

“The total construction of 92 apartments will be a $13 million project, and they will be ready next fall,” Burks said. “That will greatly alleviate our housing problem.”

Staff writer Jeanni Brosius can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or jbrosius@arkansasonline. com.

Three Rivers, Pages 49 on 08/18/2011