Alger: Enrollment At JMU To Level Off
President Indicates Largest Growth May Be Behind University During Speech
Posted: January 9, 2013
HARRISONBURG — Planned growth that has expanded James Madison University’s enrollment to 19,927 students is expected to level off in the coming years, President Jonathan Alger said Tuesday.
“Right now, we are bursting at the seams in a lot of respects,” Alger said at a Rotary Club of Rockingham County breakfast meeting, specifically referring to classroom space and the faculty-student ratio, which remains consistent with past years at 16:1.
“You won’t see the dramatic growth you saw 10 or 15 years ago,” he told attendees at the Holiday Inn on East Market Street in Harrisonburg.
At JMU, a gradual increase in the number of slots open for new students led to several record incoming classes in recent years, peaking with an approximately 4,300-member first-time freshman class in the fall, according to numbers released at the end of October.
The university accepted larger freshman classes on purpose, according to university spokesman Don Egle, to meet Gov. Bob McDonnell’s request included in his 2011 “Top Jobs” legislation that the state’s public institutions graduate 100,000 more students over the next 15 years.
The university’s population has grown by 3,962, or nearly 25 percent, since 2000, when enrollment was 15,965.
Construction projects have been introduced to keep up with the growth. Under President Emeritus Linwood Rose, who retired in June after leading the university since 1998, 25 major buildings were constructed and 2.4 million square feet were added to the campus.
Projects totaling $110.6 million are under construction at the university, with the next projects in the queue totaling $116.4 million. JMU plans to ask the General Assembly this year for about $29 million more in funding to pursue projects in 2013-14.
While the number of students at the university will continue to increase in some academic areas, such as in science, technology, engineering and nursing fields, Alger said he doesn’t anticipate any dramatic overall enrollment jumps.
“We are not looking to grow in any significant way,” he said.
Instead, the university will work on growing its reputation and delivery of a strong, accessible, affordable education, he said.
Throughout his speech, Alger’s message remained focused on “the engaged university,” which is his term for the university’s combination of the advantages of a large research institution and a small liberal arts education.
“People know each other, people care about each other,” Alger said. “We’re trying to combine the strengths of different types of institutions into something new and special.”
With a nod to Rotary’s principles, Alger also emphasized JMU’s commitment to ethical decision-making and giving back.
“We have lots and lots of faculty and students and staff who are involved in the community,” he said. “Students and faculty are attracted to JMU because they care about public service and civic engagement.”
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