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University of Mary is seeing record enrollment.

The preliminary fall 2017 enrollment count shows the University of Mary's incoming freshman class is the largest in history.

More than 600 new students began classes on Wednesday at the main campus in Bismarck, a 13 percent increase compared to last year.

The University of Mary — North Dakota's only private, Catholic university — was established in 1959. Overall enrollment hit its peak this year, also, with more than 3,200 students, or a 5 percent increase compared to last year.

School officials attribute some of the growth to a year-round campus option being offered to students, which allows undergraduates to earn a bachelor’s degree in 2.6 years. Students complete eight consecutive semesters, including over the summer.

The university also has completed several construction projects to draw new students, which is part of the school's Vision 2030 capital campaign. The grand opening of new 80,000-square-foot student center, called the Lumen Vitae University Center, will be held Friday, with an open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The school opened a new field house and a women's dorm over the past year.

(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com)

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