By Karen Petit
Lander University’s 150th anniversary year is marked with history-making achievements.
In the 2022 State of the University address on Monday (Sept. 12), Dr. Richard Cosentino discussed the University’s record of success, including its highest enrollment and graduation numbers, as well as financial support of $17 million for two consecutive years from the South Carolina General Assembly.
“I am so proud of Lander … and so very grateful to be the president of Lander University,” Cosentino said, remarking on the Sesquicentennial Celebration of the University. “It’s a big deal. We’ve been doing what we do for a long time. Educating great citizens for our state, the country and the world is literally in our DNA.”
Lander opened the 2022-23 academic year with more than 4,100 undergraduate and master’s degree students. The number marks a 52 percent increase in enrollment since 2015, when Cosentino became president.
Lander’s growth is higher than the state’s other four-year, comprehensive universities and the state’s research universities. The record number of students comes as Lander also has maintained its tuition at a steady $10,700 for seven years, he said.
The growth is represented also in the number of degrees awarded – a number that increased from 520 in 2019-20, to 694 in 2021-22.
Fundraising grew from $1.1 million in 2018 to $4.2 million in 2022, with three of the past four years yielding record private-giving results. “People want to invest in winners,” he said.
The State of the University came on the same day that U.S. News & World Report released its 2023 rankings, which placed Lander at No. 3 in public Regional Colleges South, and No. 4 for Best Colleges for Veterans, Regional Colleges South.
Among other highlights discussed in the State of the University:
- Campus Construction: Projects completed in the past year are the state-of-the-art Nursing Skills Simulation Center, formerly Legion Hall; and renovations to Lander’s first Field House and completion of the Field House II for the University’s wrestling and lacrosse teams. A new campus restaurant, Freshens, is scheduled to open this month.
Projects underway include a new swimming pool, the Chipley Circle, Old Main Tower renovations and updates for the Uptown Administrative Building, which will feature meeting areas and a student art gallery.
- Future Campus Plans: Funding has been received for a new Nursing Building and an Information Commons, considered the “library of the future.” These buildings will be constructed in the lawn areas across from Laura Lander Hall. With a new Information Commons in place, renovations to the current Jackson Library would create classrooms, laboratory spaces and faculty offices. The replacement of six elevators on campus is also in the plans.
- Sports: Lander University student-athletes have an average 3.29 GPA. Student-athletes on 21 varsity teams represent 14 percent of the student body. Upgraded facilities for Bearcat sports continue Lander’s commitment to providing athletes with the best experience in the NCAA Division II.
- Employment: Lander has added jobs to boost employment to nearly 500 full-time faculty and staff.
- Branding: Lander has expanded its marketing to prospective students through a number of initiatives, including a new University website and social media campaigns, which have resulted in a larger, more engaged social media presence than other surrounding institutions.
As Lander’s enrollment increases, so does its goal to enhance students’ success, Cosentino said.
“What do they need for success? Is the quality there?” he said.
The commitment to student success is underscored by the recent hiring of Dr. Amanda Darden as the University’s first Vice President for Student Experience and Quality Assurance. The University also has enhanced tutor and mentor initiatives, as well as peer programming for academic success.
Throughout the State of the University address, Cosentino lauded the University’s faculty, staff, students, alumni and Board of Trustees for building a strong foundation for the institution’s next 150 years.
“At Lander, we celebrate our rich history and our legacy of providing our students with a quality education. But we’re not done making history,” Cosentino said. “We’re still making history.”