The start of the spring semester will bring with it yet another surge in enrollment at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College.

When classes begin on Monday, Jan. 11, the number of students seated in NEO classrooms will have increased 20 percent as compared to this point in 2009. Though numbers are still preliminary, NEO is on-track to have the largest percentage increase in spring semester enrollment since 1990.

Data reported on Jan. 4 indicated a head count of 1697 students as compared to 1414 on the same date in 2009. While these figures are not final, the current head count has already surpassed the final head count taken for the spring 2009 semester, which totaled 1691.

Students can continue to enroll for the spring semester until Friday, January 15.

This marks the third consecutive semester that NEO’s enrollment has been on the rise. In the spring of 2009, the college experienced a 5.4 percentage increase in its final enrollment. In the fall of 2009, NEO reported a 14-year enrollment high and a 20 percent enrollment increase.

The rising number of NEO students this semester has resulted mostly from a growing number of first-time freshmen. As compared to last spring, 35 percent more first-time freshmen have enrolled.

Dr. Jeffery Hale, NEO president, said it is thrilling to see so many young people setting their sights on NEO.

“I’m pleased to see a renewed interest in NEO,” said Hale. “Certainly, the economy has played a roll in the college’s enrollment upsurge, but I feel firmly that at the heart of these students’ decision is the quality education and student-focused environment NEO is known for. Outstanding faculty, strong academic departments and a vibrant campus-life will always matter in the college-choice process.”

NEO administrators said some of the enrollment growth can be attributed to a greater focus on providing an active campus life. In the past, students living in the residence halls have indicated that they wanted more activities available to them, said Amy Ishmael, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management.

Their requests were heard loud and clear.

Last semester, the newly formed NEO Activities Council arranged for several entertainers to perform on campus, including cowboy humorist Baxter Black and comedian Harlan Cohen. A Concert on the Lawn series was also presented.

The line-up of activities will continue during the second half of the year, Ishmael said. Students returning to NEO this week will be treated to three comedic performances. Ben Stovall, Phoebe Robinson and Christopher Havel are all regular performers at the Gotham Comedy Club in New York City, N.Y. The three are also NEO alums. They will perform during the NYC to NEO Comedy Club on Wednesday, January 13 at 7:30 p.m. in the Fine Arts Auditorium.

There is no cost to attend but reservations are required. To reserve seats, contact the NEO special events hotline at (918) 540-6960 or e-mail specialevents@neo.edu.

“By presenting our students with social events such as these, we are opening the door for them to engage with each other and become better connected with NEO,” said Ishmael. “Our goal is to create an environment in which students are excited to be on our campus. The fact that our enrollment is on the rise suggests that we are accomplishing that.”

Ishmael said that improvements to campus facilities have also helped to draw students to NEO. Construction of a Science Complex is in progress and is anticipated to be completed by the start of the fall 2010 semester. This project entails the construction of a new 12,500-square-foot Science Hall, which will equip students with laboratory space for chemistry, medical lab technician and microbiology classes, as well as storage space for lab equipment. Faculty offices are also included in the plans.

As part of the same project, Cunningham Hall is undergoing a renovation of its classrooms, laboratories and offices.

The $6.7 million project is on-track, despite inclement weather in the fall. The instillation of a new roof and windows has been completed on Cunningham Hall, said Steve Grimes, director of the college’s physical plant. Inside, the building’s new configuration has been laid out and the sheet rocking is nearly complete. Crews are currently working on the instillation of the heating, cooling and electrical systems.

The framework for the new Science Hall is going up and should be completed by mid-January. Work on the exterior walls and the underground utilities that service the building are underway. Grimes said the finish-work and cabinetry have been ordered and are on-schedule to be installed in May.

This semester, NEO will also break ground on the construction of a $1.7 million athletic training facility for NEO’s student-athletes. Located adjacent to the north end zone of Red Robertson Field, the new structure will feature locker rooms, a weight room, athletic training room and a laundry area. Crossland Construction has been hired for the project, which should be completed by the start of the 2010 football season.

In addition, a remodel of the Student Union is expected to begin this year. Input has been sought from NEO students to determine what features they would like to see in the remodeled facility, said Ishmael.

Miami resident Summer Watson said the recent additions to NEO’s campus activity line-up and improvements to its facilities have made her experience more enjoyable. But the sophomore business administration major said the reason she decided to return for her fourth semester at NEO is the same that prompted her to return for her second and third.

“I have adjusted better going to NEO than I would have going directly to a bigger college,” Watson said. “Going from Miami High School to NEO wasn’t such a shock. I feel more comfortable because of the small class sizes; it’s not intimidating.”

Though the semester has not progressed past its first week, college administrators are already planning for upcoming events. On Feb. 23, NEO will host its annual Honors Banquet for those students named to the honor roll and those listed among the latest ‘Who’s Who Among American Junior Colleges’ publication. Terry Peach, member of the Oklahoma State University/A&M Board of Regents and the state of Oklahoma’s Commissioner in Agriculture, will be the keynote speaker for the event.

For additional enrollment information, please contact the Admissions Office at (918) 540-6210 or visit www.neo.edu http://www.neo.edu> .