Pursuing a college degree as the U.S. economy approaches double-digit unemployment is like a vote of confidence in the future. At Maryville University’s thriving campus, the mood is energetic and optimistic. “Enrollment is at an all-time high of more than 3,600 students, and this year’s freshman class was the largest ever—an 8 percent increase over last year,” says Marty Parkes, Maryville’s associate vice president of marketing and community relations. “It demonstrates that we’re right on track to achieve our long-term strategic plan for total enrollment of 5,000 over the next five years. Despite challenging economic times, we haven’t had to lay off anyone or cut any of our programs.”

Signs of growth are evident throughout Maryville’s 130-acre campus in Town & Country. A new dorm is opening next fall, the School of Health Professions is expanding, and the university’s Weekend and Evening College will relocate to Lake Saint Louis in January.

The school’s 13-team athletic department was recently reclassified from Division III to Division II. “Now we’re eligible to play in the Great Lakes Valley Conference throughout the Midwest,” Parkes says. “That gives us a better level of competition—and an opportunity to increase our visibility beyond St. Louis. We want to keep our local base while expanding our name recognition throughout the Midwest.”

Not bad for what started in 1872 as a small Catholic academy for women in South St. Louis. “We’re now a comprehensive, coeducational learning experience for traditional undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students, as well as nontraditional weekend and evening students,” Parkes says. “We pride ourselves on our challenging programs, the caliber of our students and our beautiful campus. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks us among the best schools in the Master’s-Midwest category. We train our students to lead lives of achievement, global awareness and civic engagement.”

Maryville University is divided into four schools, Parkes explains: Business, Education, Arts and Sciences, and Health Professions. “Our academic programs and outside experiences blend classroom learning with real-life training in a hands-on, metropolitan setting,” he says. “Neighbors like St. Luke’s Hospital and the Maryville Centre Corporate Complex provide internship opportunities where students gain valuable work experience. The end result is students who are well-prepared to start careers of distinction.”

Among recent graduates, 82 percent are now employed or attending graduate school. More than 15,000 Maryville alumni live and work in the St. Louis region. “Our School of Health Professions is very strong right now,” Parkes says. “With the aging boomer population, the health field will be a major provider of jobs for the next generation or two, and we intend to enhance and grow those programs.” Already a leader in physical and occupational therapy education as well nursing education, the program will offer a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree beginning in January.

“Whether you’re right out of high school and ready for the traditional four-year experience, a full-time employee in your 20s through 40s looking to further your education and improve your career with a master’s degree, or a high school principal who wants to get that Ph.D. and become a school superintendent, Maryville University can help,” Parkes says.

National surveys have shown that parents of college-bound students want a safe location for their kids, and that students want access to a major metropolitan area. “Maryville offers both, along with a first-rate education,” says university president Mark Lombardi. “At Maryville, we strive to make everything within the classroom challenging—and everything outside of it pleasant, nurturing and easy.”