Pee Dee, North Carolina colleges see more late applicants this semester than usual

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CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) – Some colleges in the eastern Carolinas are getting more late applications than normal.

National studies indicate the pandemic had a significant impact on higher education, but Francis Marion University leaders say, their enrollment ‘remained fairly level when it came to COVID-19.’

“As far as enrollment goes we are very pleased,” John Sweeney, the vice president for communications at FMU said. “We are about at the same numbers as we were at this time last year.”

The same cannot be said for Coker University in Hartsville, though.

“An independent college like Coker University, a university of our size, COVID was tough,” said Patrick Riccards, the vice president of communications at Coker.

Riccards says the university’s enrollment dipped slightly for the upcoming semester, but of the people who applied, a greater percentage than normal chose to go to Coker.

“We take that as a good sign,” he said. Coker University’s enrollment numbers are not finalized yet and University leaders anticipate more students will enroll because applications are still coming in.

“I think there were a number of families who were waiting to see how the spring was going to shake out and what was happening with [the COVID variant] Delta,” Riccards said.

An increasing number of late applicants is also something leaders at UNC Pembroke are noticing.

“We continue to see really strong interest even as close to the semester as we are from new freshmen and transfers, students returning to college after a period of time, basically across the board,” Jodi Phelps, chief of communications and marketing at UNCP said. “I guess they are waiting and they waited out COVID and now they are like, “Hey here is a valid, valuable option I can continue my education.”

Back at Coker University, Riccards says their enrollment also substantially increased after ‘strict’ coronavirus mitigation guidelines were announced.

“We’re seeing the number of students committing to come to Coker increase from last month, but more importantly we’re seeing that the number of students on our campus who are vaccinated is increasing dramatically,” he explained. “When we announced our policy this week, we had less than 39% of our students vaccinated. As of noon Friday, we are now over 60%.”

Everyone at Coker University will be required to wear a mask indoors and those who are not vaccinated must keep their mask on while outside.

At both UNC Pembroke and FMU, masks and vaccines are ‘strongly encouraged,’ but not required.

FMU leaders did announce a lottery drawing for vaccinated students, though. “When move-in commences, students will be able to upload their vaccination certificates to our system online and that will enter them into a chance to win $1,000,” Sweeny said.

Coastal Carolina University is offering a similar vaccine scholarship lottery.

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