LAWRENCEVILLE - Nick Falkenhagen said he's excited to be part of a milestone at Georgia Gwinnett College.
The Grayson resident was the 3,000th student to register for classes this fall at the 3-year-old college. Enrollment at Georgia Gwinnett has nearly doubled since last year, and about half of the students are new to the University System of Georgia institution.
"We planned for 2,500 students this fall, growing to 3,000 by the end of the academic year," GGC President Daniel J. Kaufman said Friday. "We have exceeded our expectations, so we are thrilled with the result."
Kaufman credits the growth to the fact that the college was awarded accreditation in June by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and was granted permission by the Board of Regents to add new majors, including early childhood education, special education, political science, English, history, mathematics and exercise science.
Falkenhagen, a police officer senior with the Gwinnett County Police Department, said he decided to enroll in college because he knows education is important if he decides to progress in his career.
"In Gwinnett County, there are so many opportunities at different schools that I could have gone to," he said. "I chose Georgia Gwinnett College being that I've heard nothing but great things about it."
Falkenhagen said he plans to pursue a degree in either criminal justice - a major the college hopes to add soon - or early childhood education. He began his classes Saturday.
Originally from California, Falkenhagen served in the U.S. Air Force and moved to Gwinnett five years ago. He and his wife, a third-grade teacher, have a 6-month-old daughter.
Georgia Gwinnett College opened its doors in 2006 to 118 juniors and seniors. The following year, freshmen and sophomores were admitted, bringing the student population to 778. Enrollment doubled in 2008 to more than 1,500 last fall, and the college had more than 1,600 students by the end of the 2008-09 academic year.
The college has been successful retaining students as well. More than 1,500 students enrolled at the college in the spring of 2009 have returned this fall.
Next summer, residential housing, a new student activities building and a state-of-the-art library and learning center are slated to open their doors as the college expects to educate more than 5,000 students.
"The faculty has stepped up their efforts in individual mentoring and engagement within the classroom to match the significant growth we have experienced with the additional students," said Stas Preczewski, vice president of academic and student affairs. "This explosion in enrollment, that we hoped for but didn't count on, also has caused our student affairs division to increase its services and activities throughout the campus. Our students are going to see a lot of significant things happen this year at GGC. They are part of a great time in the history of this college."