COLUMBIA - Columbia College is one of the nation's fastest growing colleges, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Columbia ranked number 17 among private non-profit master's institutions with an enrollment growth of 113.4 percent from 2000 to 2010. Student enrollment increased from 7,948 to 16,962 during the decade. Much of the school's growth can be attributed to its 34 extended campuses and online program. Columbia College has 4,000 online-only students and has opened 10 new extended campus since 2000.
The 34 extended campuses include a presence on 18 military installations, according to Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Management Tery Donelson. Twenty-five percent of Columbia students are affiliated with the military.
"You have military travelling all over the world that are going to Columbia College," Donelson said. "You can go to Japan, you can go to Iraq, you can go to Europe and you'll see students wearing Columbia College t-shirts."
Donelson said the school's presence online also has been crucial in the school's growth.
"We got in at the very beginning of online, we had the leadership to research it right, and the finances to take that chance," he said. "It's worked out very well for us."
The enrollment increase at the flagship campus in Columbia has led to continuous expansion. A new $18 million science center will open for the Fall 2013 semester.
Columbia College is not done expanding. Donelson said the main campus has acquired numerous buildings in the downtown area to accommodate expansion, including Federal Hall on Sixth and Cherry streets.
With such expansive growth, the non-profit institution is able to put more money into its budget each year, and this year the athletic department debuted 5 new programs: men's and women's cross country and golf and women's soccer.
Donelson said as long as Columbia College continues to offer a broad array of options for its students, it will be able to expand even further.
"Providing a very good academic program at a very affordable price keeps those students coming, and they tell their friends."