Students and staff at Ashford University had plenty to celebrate Tuesday.
In addition to officially opening its new $4.6 million athletic facility, Ashford welcomed the largest freshman class in the school’s 92-year history and reached a new level of overall enrollment on campus.
Ashford has about 430 new students this fall, more than doubling the record of 189 set last year, said university president Jane McAuliffe.
Combined with about 320 returning students, that gives the private, for-profit school about 750 full-time, on-campus students, up significantly from the 452 at the school at the end of last year.
The bulk of Ashford’s overall enrollment continues to be online, however. Bridgepoint Education reported 67,744 combined online and on-campus enrollment for Ashford and University of the Rockies in Colorado as of mid-summer, 99 percent of it online education.
Current online enrollment figures were not available.
McAuliffe said nearly half of the new students are going to school tuition-free on President’s Scholarships, which pay 100 percent of the $15,720 annual tuition for applicants with a grade-point average of 3.5 or above. She said the scholarships will be offered again next year. Other scholarship levels provide $10,000 to $12,500, based on grade points of 3.0 and higher.
Senior Nathan Billany of Yorkshire, England, is a recipient of a 100 percent scholarship. He also benefits from the new athletic complex as one of the captains of the men’s soccer team.
“This is about as good as it gets,” he said.
In addition to the new athletic complex, located at the former site of the Clinton Country Club less than two miles from the campus, Ashford’s parent company, Bridgepoint Education, has completed a number of recent improvements on the main campus. Those include renovated restrooms at Claire Hall, a renovated cafeteria and an improved electrical system.
“If you haven’t been to Ashford recently, you haven’t been to Ashford,” Vice president and campus director John Ballheim told a crowd of students and staff at a pep rally Tuesday on the main campus.
The university is developing plans for further use of the former country club property. The campus director said a new academic building and new residence halls likely would be projects for the university in the future. Up-to-date science labs also will be a priority.
Any residence halls would not be completed until 2012 at the earliest, Ballheim said. The college arranged for extra students to be housed this year in a wing of the Frontier Motor Inn in west Clinton, with busing provided to the campus. Ballheim said the college also may look at some new residential hall arrangements for next year.
In all, Ashford has invested about $15 million in its Clinton facilities in the last five years, Ballheim said. He said the intent has been to “bring the 100-year-old campus into the 21st century.”
A study conducted by The London Group of Ashford’s economic impact in the community showed that the college’s 2009 total impact in business output to the state of Iowa was $40.9 million, 728 jobs, $12.6 million in employee earnings and $18.6 million added to the state’s gross domestic product.
Steve Ames, president and CEO of the Clinton Regional Development Corp., said an economic study isn’t necessary to see the impact Ashford has had in the community.
“All one has to do is drive around Clinton to see the improvements Ashford has brought,” he said.