Mercer University offers higher education for working adults

If you think you have to live in Macon to earn a Mercer University degree, think again. Although Macon has been home to Mercer since 1871, the university also has a 300-acre campus in Atlanta that houses graduate and professional programs including nursing, pharmacy and physical therapy.

Its Savannah campus is home to the institution’s second medical school. Mercer also has regional academic centers in Lithia Springs, McDonough, Eastman and Newnan, and offers education degrees in Forsyth County.

“In the 1980s, we began expanding our reach with the commitment to offer our high-quality programs where people really need them,” said Penny Elkins, senior vice president for enrollment management. The institution partnered with county and city governments to establish regional academic centers to serve working adults who couldn’t travel to Macon.

“We don’t just offer classes. We joined the local chambers of commerce and became a part of each community that we serve,” Elkins said. “Nontraditional students make up 41 percent of our university enrollment now, and they are very important to us. We are committed to providing opportunities for higher education to students across Georgia.”

Mercer has a record enrollment of 8,336 students this year. Of those, 31 percent are traditional college-age students and 28 percent are enrolled in graduate programs. Mercer houses 11 colleges and schools that prepare students for careers in business, education, engineering, medicine, law, theology, music and liberal arts. Many of those programs are available at its regional academic centers.

“The students at these centers tend to be local and working. The average age is 38. They are looking to change careers, to move up the ladder by completing a master’s degree, or to finish a degree they started years ago,” said Maritza Ferreira, associate director of marketing. “For that reason, we offer our programs in a convenient format.”

Classes are taught in eight-week formats at night and on weekends, so students can attend just one night a week. Some are offered online.

“The centers are equipped with everything needed to ensure student success,” Elkins said.

The courses meet the same standards as those on the Macon campus, and are taught by Mercer faculty, many of whom are based at the centers.

“A regional center is a micro-university, with a library, bookstore, computer and science labs, admissions and advising staff, and an academic resource center with tutoring,” she said. “Students can begin and finish a degree in a location close to home.”

Education degrees are the most popular ones in the regional academic centers, but there are also programs in organizational leadership, human resources, business, pre-nursing and liberal arts. A new bachelor’s degree in informatics combines computer skills and information technology.

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