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<B>Southern Vermont College students Haley Omasta, left, Samantha Fox, Tom Bastan and Seth Bartholdi enjoy each other&rsquo;s company in a dorm room Tuesday. (Peter Crabtree)</B>
Southern Vermont College students Haley Omasta, left, Samantha Fox, Tom Bastan and Seth Bartholdi enjoy each other&rsquo;s company in a dorm room Tuesday.
Southern Vermont College students Haley Omasta, left, Samantha Fox, Tom Bastan and Seth Bartholdi enjoy each other’s company in a dorm room Tuesday. (Peter Crabtree)
Wednesday September 5, 2012

DAWSON RASPUZZI

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- Enrollment at the three colleges in Bennington has reached record numbers this fall.

As classes begin this week, there are about 1,700 college students attending Southern Vermont College, Bennington College and Community College of Vermont's campus in downtown Bennington. Officials at all three campuses believe their enrollment this year has set new highs.

Enrollment growth at SVC has been constant in recent years, and this fall the private college has reached a new high of about 600 students. Of those students, about 175 are freshmen and another 75 transferred to the school to begin this semester.

"This is the largest incoming class in college history. Last year was the largest as well," said Jeremy Gibbons, SVC's director of admissions.

Gibbons said the total enrollment of 600 students is definitely the largest in recent years, and is likely the largest in the institution's 86-year history, including when it was located downtown and named Saint Joseph College.

The trend at SVC is expected to continue. Gibbons said a growth plan calls for enrollment to top off between 700 and 750 students. The intent is for enrollment to hit that mark by the fall of 2014 or 2015, Gibbons said.

When President Karen Gross began at SVC in the fall of 2006 enrollment was around 350 students.

At Bennington College there were 200 freshmen on campus Tuesday. In addition to 15 transfer students, the total student body is just shy of 700 students this semester.

Director of Communications Janet Lape Marsden said this year's class is up from 683 students to 690, which she believes is a record for the private, liberal arts institution.

"We experienced a period of growth just after we went co-ed in 1969, but I believe enrollment leveled off at around 600 students," Marsden wrote in an e-mail.

Long-range plans are for Bennington College to continue enrolling approximately 200 freshmen each year and maintaining a steady enrollment.

CCV has also experienced growth each of the past few years. The trend in Bennington is similar to the community college's growth statewide at its dozen campuses. As course registration closed Friday, Coordinator of Academic Services Jeannie Jenkins said there were 400 students enrolled. At the same time last year, Jenkins said, there were about 330 students registered. Typically, the local campus adds another 20 to 50 students as classes that begin later in the fall semester get going.

Part of the reason for more students may be that CCV has increased the number of courses it offers to 60 this fall, which is up 10 percent from last fall. Included in those new courses are pharmacology, fine crafts, and computer hardware. Sign language is also being offered again this fall after many years without the course. CCV has also started a new medical assisting associates degree program that is being kicked off here in Bennington.

Contact Dawson Raspuzzi at draspuzzi@benningtonbanner.com or follow on Twitter @DawsonRaspuzzi