Catawba plans to double enrollment

Published 12:10 am Monday, August 29, 2016

by Rebecca Rider

SALISBURY — It’s never too early to start planning. The year 2025-2026 will be a big one for Catawba College, marking the school’s 175th birthday as well as 100 years at its Salisbury location. College President Brien Lewis said he hopes that Catawba will have another reason to celebrate that year — a doubled student population.

Fall enrollment this year was 1,306 — a 2.4 percent increase over 2015 — and the incoming freshman class was within “spitting distance” of the largest class on record — just a dozen students shy, Lewis said. Over the next decade, Lewis said Catawba hopes to increase its student enrollment to 2,400.

“We’re now into the nuts and bolts of figuring that out,” Lewis said.

The key to an initiative to double student growth is to go about it slowly and intentionally, instead of encouraging growth all at once. There’s a lot of logistical planning to be done, Lewis said, to ensure that the school has plenty of room and maintains its student and faculty ratio — Catawba officials don’t want a larger student base to equal larger class sizes.

“That’s not what Catawba’s about,” Lewis said.

Instead, the school will focus on gradually improving its strong points, and adding programs strategically if there is high demand. For example, Lewis said the school may consider adding a master’s program in athletic training.

“So that would be a natural extension, a natural outgrowth of something we’re already doing well.”

Catawba’s Board of Trustees discussed the idea in June, and the college has just begun researching and planning for what the college would look like with twice its current student population.

“We’re just starting to fit those pieces together,” Lewis said.

And space isn’t the only concern — Lewis said the college also wants to be able to grow without increasing its tuition. Once the logistics are out of the way, Lewis said, the conversation will be opened up campus-wide for input and ideas. But the next 10 years should bring some exciting new territory.

“It’s a challenging time, but in a good way,” Lewis said.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.