HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The student population continues to climb at William Carey University at Tradition. The campus' fall enrollment is 981. That's the highest number of students since the Gulf Coast campus was established more than 40 years ago. There are several reasons behind the record enrollment.
After Hurricane Katrina wiped-out its beach front campus in Gulfport, William Carey University moved to the property on Highway 67 in Harrison County.
"It has proven to be a very wise choice," said William Carey University President Dr. Tommy King.
Since opening in 2009, the enrollment at the campus has continued to rise. Now, it has reached its highest level.
"We've had a 50-percent increase since we left Highway 90 and came to this Tradition location, and we only see that continuing," said King.
"It's a short drive and I love it," said William Carey University Junior Elisa Lerma.
The campus' location was just one of the reasons why Lerma and her friend Crystal Yancy enrolled at the campus.
"The classes are a lot smaller. The instructors here care about their students. There's more of like a family here than a bigger university," said Yancy, a clinical nursing student.
"Especially in nursing, I like that I can get a bachelor's degree in 18 months. So it's very convenient. The location is great and I like the schedule, the faculty," said Lerma.
In fact, the clinical nursing class this fall is the largest ever. And the Criminal Justice program has grown from five students two years ago to 50 students today.
"It shows the continued recovery of the coast, and the fact that coast people are interested in education," said King.
King said the Gulf Coast campus also offers programs that not found on the Hattiesburg campus like criminal justice, painting, graphic design, and workforce training and management.
"It's exciting news for us and it will make us go to the drawing boards and look for construction of a new building to accommodate the growth in the near future," he said.
Future expansion plans include adding an academic building and a School of Pharmacy. The university is pursuing funding through grants, personal investors, and donations.
The combined enrollment of both William Carey campuses at Tradition and Hattiesburg is also at an all-time high, with 4,145 students enrolled this fall.