Nearly 200 students, including 62 freshmen, started classes Monday at the University of Kentucky College of Engineering Paducah Campus on Alben Barkley Drive.
The incoming freshman class falls just short of the 2012 record of 64, said Denise Brazzell, director of student services, but still creates excitement for college administrators.
"We are growing by leaps and bound," Brazzell said. "We have worked really hard to retain top-notch students. When I first came on board (in 2008), if we had 30 freshmen we were really excited."
When the campus opened in 1997, there were 15 part-time students. In 2008, the campus boasted 91 full-time students across freshman through senior years. This year, there are nearly 200 active enrolled full-time students.
The UK College of Engineering Paducah Campus offers students the chance to earn a four-year bachelor's degree in either chemical or mechanical engineering without ever leaving home.
"We are putting out UK grads right here in Paducah," Brazzell said, "but we couldn't do it without strong partnerships with WKCTC (West Kentucky Community and Technical College) and Murray State. You can't put out quality students without quality instructors - not just our engineering professors, but math and English too."
According to David Silverstein, program director and professor at the University of Kentucky College of Engineering Paducah Campus, students can take advantage of a lower tuition rate in Paducah while still being a full-time student at the University of Kentucky.
"We offer a world-class UK facility at a cost that is significantly less than if they'd gone elsewhere," he said.
Like with any community college, he added, students can take advantage of a lower tuition rate from UK Paducah's partners for the first two years of classes. Following the first two years, no transfer to the UK Lexington campus is needed; all four years can be completed in Paducah.
"While we are excited about the number of freshmen (this year), we are also excited about the total number of students nearing 200," Silverstein said.
Silverstein said the campus has continued to attract quality students who are committed to their studies and highly capable. He credits Project Lead the Way programs in area schools for better preparing students to enter the science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, workforce.
Brazzell said the UK Paducah Campus has graduated more than 150 engineering students since 1997.
Contact Carrie Dillard, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8657.