HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - "We're really astounded. We hoped for steady growth, but we never envisioned the kind of growth that we had," said William Carey University President Dr. Tommy King.
During a visit to the Tradition campus Thursday morning, King marveled at the unprecedented growth at the Harrison County campus. When the school relocated there in August of 2009, it was built to accommodate 750 students. Today, 933 students are enrolled. That's higher than pre-Katrina levels.
"We've been able to accommodate them through creative scheduling of classes, but we're going to have to have more space if we're going to continue to grow," said King.
This month, the university is adding 102 parking spaces, mainly, to handle the influx of night-time students.
"Our night classes are more than full. We could accommodate a few students during the daytime," said King. "We had a 75 percent growth on this campus over the last four years, which is astounding."
King credits the growth on the university's ability to offer classes right after Katrina destroyed the Gulfport campus. He also pointed to having new buildings and a very convenient location.
University leaders are now working on plans to build another academic building on the campus. The two-story building would have 12 classrooms and a few offices. It would also house an art studio so the university can bring back its popular ceramics and sculpture programs.
"While our plans are ready to turn spades tomorrow, we don't have the funds on hand," said King.
While the private university grapples with financing obstacles, King said the expansion is needed now, because this enrollment boom is just beginning.
"Our long range plan calls for about 2,500 students on this campus," said King. "As we purchase more space and are able to construct more buildings, we just expect to grow."
Dr. King said there's no time frame for construction, because it all hinges on money. Right now, the university is devoting much of its funding on completing three medical buildings on its main campus in Hattiesburg.