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New student Gabrielae Fred who is studying nursing, eats lunch outside the library at IUK on the first day of class on August 26, 2019. Tim Bath | Kokomo Tribune

Indiana University Kokomo is continuing its place as one of the city’s bright spots, announcing that for the fifth year in a row the school is experiencing record enrollment.

The school has said the fall semester — classes started Aug. 26 — began with 3,164 students on campus, which is an increase of 1.3 percent from fall 2018. Also up are total credit hours, at 38,633.

The enrollment, along with the school’s incoming, under-construction Student Events and Activities Center and a private apartment complex recently finished just off campus, has solidified the university — starting its 75th anniversary year — as one of IU’s most celebrated regional campuses.

“We welcome our new and returning students to campus in a very exciting time in our history,” said Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke in a media release.

“As we celebrate our past during this milestone year, we also look forward to the future accomplishments of these students, and commit ourselves to their success here.”

This year’s freshman class includes 637 students, a similar total to the record 639 first-year students that came to IUK in fall 2018.

University leaders have often spoke about the goal of making IUK a destination campus that can provide a complete college experience, in lieu of its previous reputation as a place students — both teenagers and nontraditional students — would go in an effort to stay close to home.

That initiative has included adding sports teams and on-campus amenities, along with additional academic opportunities.

“This is a dynamic place, where students have life-changing experiences on a daily basis,” said Todd Gambill, vice chancellor for student success and enrollment management.

“We are thrilled that we are no longer the best-kept secret in Indiana. Our enrollment success is due to the excitement that our faculty, staff, and students are generating.”

Putting IUK’s growth on display this fall was the opening of a three-story, 125-bed student housing complex at the southeast corner of South Lafountain and Boulevard streets. It is called University Park.

The complex joins The Annex, 2205 S. Washington St., as nearby off-campus housing options for IUK students.

The project’s developer, Dave Van Baalen, previously told the Kokomo Common Council that the housing development came as “IUK has made a quick transition from a commuter college to an 18-year-old freshman college.”

“And they have already seen that they are losing some students because there’s no housing. A lot of parents are uncomfortable with their 18-year-old daughter living across town instead of across the street,” said Van Baalen, who has publicly toyed with the idea of a second complex if the first one proves successful.

He told the Tribune last month that the response to University Park “is overwhelming and very positive.” He expects the facility to be 100% occupied for the 2020 school year.

On campus, meanwhile, is ongoing construction of the school’s future Student Activities and Events Center, a single-level building with an assembly space and two-story gymnasium that will encompass roughly 24,000 square feet.

Pictures posted on IUK’s website last week showed construction underway on the facility’s exterior walls, along with underground electrical work.

The $8.4 million project will also include athletic offices, training and locker facilities, a lobby and reception area, classroom and meeting room and a ticket area with concessions. Construction is expected to be completed in fall 2020.

The school’s website says it will be home to “events, concerts, lectures, and other learning experiences for students and the community alike.”

George Myers can be reached at 765-454-8585, by email at george.myers@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @gmyerskt.

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