BOLIVAR—Southwest Baptist University (SBU) experienced a thrilling end to the month of August with news that this year’s freshman class came in at 459, matching the record that was established in 2006.
Last year’s total was 453.
“I feel very, very blessed that God has blessed us richly,” said SBU President C. Pat Taylor, who gave credit to many staffers for succeeding in the effort to make sure the university met its enrollment goals.
Stephanie Miller, vice president for enrollment management, helped lead the charge as the Bolivar campus was flooded with new students for the first day of classes.
“She sure does deserve special mention,” Taylor said. “I can’t applaud her enough. She’s very good at what she does. She has figured out our market niche.”
Miller said a lot of people, including Darren Crowder, director of admissions, put in a lot of hard work.
“We have stayed true to our mission, and for the most part, we recruit kids who are going to be a fit here,” Miller said.
Official numbers were being tabulated on Sept. 8, but as of Sept. 2 there were 87 transfer students and 50 others (either re-admits or non-degree seeking) in addition to the freshman crop for a total of 596 new students.
There are 1,618 students enrolled on the Bolivar campus. That is up from 1,577 last year, which is a 2.6 percent increase. There are 1,022 returning students.
“Our retention from last year has been very good and it appears that we will retain more than 85 percent of our freshmen from last year,” Taylor said.
Enrollment usually goes up by 10-15 students from this point in the school year, meaning there will definitely be more than 1,600 students on the Bolivar campus.
Enrollment at the St. John’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences at SBU’s Springfield campus is also up from 612 to 719 students.
Taylor said there are at least five reasons why enrollment at the university has been increasing:
1. The university has developed a very good recruiting team under the leadership of Miller and Crowder. Recruiting strategies have improved, as well as activity in the recruiting process. “We understand our niche and have done a better job of marketing to our niche,” Taylor said. “We have learned that successful recruiting involves everyone on campus;”
2. SBU has learned to better leverage its financial aid. “Our financial aid staff gets the financial aid packages out earlier to students, and financial aid is much more data-driven than in previous years,” Taylor said;
3. SBU has its best facilities ever, meaning that when prospective students and parents come on campus, there is a better chance of enrolling them;
4. The university has kept its costs reasonable. This year’s total coast of attendance is $22,000, with many of SBU’s independent competitors having a total cost of more than $30,000. “With the bad economy, more families, even the wealthier families, are price conscious and are considering colleges that cost less,” Taylor said. “In this way, the poor economy has helped families focus on SBU,” and;
5. “We have remained faithful to our mission,” Taylor said. “We never have forgotten who we are. We understand our mission and we recruit students who desire to attend a Christ-centered campus. I believe that God is blessing us and will continue to bless us as long as we remain committed to our mission statement.”
Taylor keeps putting out in the public eye the university community’s adherence to its mission statement.
“We must never forget that ‘Southwest Baptist University is a Christ-centered caring, academic community preparing students to be servant leaders in a global society,’” he said. “God will continue to bless our commitment to this mission.”