COLUMBIA — Columbia College leaders are celebrating a surge in first-year student enrollment numbers they say keeps the private liberal arts school on track for a strong future — and a sign that turning the 167-year-old institution into a fully co-educational facility is quickly paying dividends.
The college, located about five miles north of downtown Columbia, added 282 new undergraduates for its fall semester that began Aug. 12, up from 163 from the same time in 2020 and a 130 percent jump from 2019 figures.
Among private colleges in the state, Columbia College had the second-largest drop in enrollment from fall 2017 to 2018, according to statistics from the state Commission on Higher Education.
Among the 119 additional students this year are 63 males who are living in Hudson Hall as the first class of residential men.
The college, which was founded in 1854, has previously accepted men into a limited number of programs, but this expands that option. The student body was 79 percent women in fall 2018. There were 272 men enrolled in evening, online and graduate degree courses that same semester.
“We saw a great opportunity to broaden our outreach and get our education to a broader population of men of course, but also women,” college President Tom Bogart said in a statement when classes started. “Most women today are looking for a co-educational environment.”
Columbia College leaders also more fully engaged students in recruitment drives and rolled out a new marketing strategy that’s been in the works for 18 months.
The school hopes over the next five years to increase enrollment by 50 percent across undergraduate and graduate students.
U.S. News and World Report named Columbia College as the South’s 40th best regional university out of 137 schools.
As enrollment jumped, so too did the number of applicants looking for a spot at the 1,200-student college — by 57 percent.
“The extra work of faculty, staff, students and alumni improved our yield from applicant to student,” said enrollment management dean Vincent Maloney.