As an important component of meeting the educational needs of society and of maximizing our impact and relevance, the University is committed to attracting, retaining, and graduating post-traditional students, and constantly reevaluating and updating our curriculum and modes of delivery. The post-traditional population is composed of students who identify as being part-time or full-time, adult learners, returning veterans, distance learners, students who are working full-time, and students who have responsibilities beyond classes. These students bring new and different expectations and desire a personalized experience from all stakeholders, including the enrollment management team, professional staff, deans, and faculty. To meet their needs, we must revise and integrate an individualized, student-centered admissions process that will enhance the student experience throughout the recruitment process. We must leverage the brand of Mercer University — a 185-year-old institution widely recognized among the finest private research universities for providing high-quality and empowering educational experiences. We must redesign the University’s website from the ground up to more effectively market Mercer’s diverse academic offerings, clearly demonstrate outcomes, and communicate its distinctive mission. We must deliver student support services to ensure that these students can achieve their goals and make a positive impact on the world.
Meet health care needs. Mercer’s Academic Health Sciences Center encompasses our College of Pharmacy, School of Medicine, College of Nursing, and College of Health Professions (Physician Assistant, Physical Therapy, Public Health, and Clinical Medical Psychology). This has been one of the fastest-growing areas within the University, with overall enrollment increasing 25 percent over the past five years (from 1,736 in 2012 to 2,175 in 2017). This total does not include undergraduate pre-health sciences students, biomedical engineering students, athletic training students, or students in a variety of other programs related to population health care and management. The intensive focus on health care is certainly appropriate, given that health care spending continues to grow at a pace far exceeding the rate of inflation and now constitutes 17.9 percent of the gross national product (GNP) in the United States. Growth is expected to continue as our population ages, with the portion of GNP consumed by health care spending projected to reach 20 percent by 2025.
Because of the breadth and quality of our programs in the health sciences, Mercer is well positioned to be a national leader in exploring new and innovative models for more efficient and effective delivery of health care, including the use of emerging technologies to extend the reach and impact of health care providers and improve patient access to health care, as well as the evolution of new professions to improve health care outcomes. At the same time, Mercer expects to continue increasing the number of physicians, nurses, physician assistants, physical therapists, and public health professionals educated within our Academic Health Sciences Center. We will continue exploring creation of an expanded campus of the School of Medicine in Columbus, which would enable us eventually to increase enrollment in our M.D. program from 462 to 720 students, as well as creating an endowed Center for Gerontology.