BOLIVAR — With Southwest Baptist University (SBU) setting records for budget and enrollment, President C. Pat Taylor is as hopeful as he has ever been about the future.
“We have a very good enrollment this fall, and now we must do everything we can to keep these students enrolled until graduation,” Taylor said. “Retention will be a strategic initiative during the next few years.”
Trustees Oct. 16 approved a budget of $51.8 million with a record number of 3,844 students in the SBU system, including 459 freshmen on campus which ties the record previously set in 2006 and 2009. Enrollment will be finalized on the SBU census date of Oct. 27, and the number may go higher.
“We are extremely pleased with our record enrollment,” said Taylor, who just completed his 16th year as SBU president. “It’s the result of the work of our admissions staff. Also retention is better, which means our entire campus family has been working at it.
“When you look at all the different programs we have—three satellite campuses plus the seven graduate programs we have now—yes, it does feel much larger than it did, and it is. But yet we still have a small campus atmosphere for the undergraduate students here on the Bolivar campus.”
The previous high for students was 3,716 in 2009. Last year’s total headcount was 3,633. Included in the record total is a milestone in undergraduate students, 3,009, which marks the first time SBU has ever topped the 3,000 mark.
Another positive indicator is SBU’s ability to regain its 1,600 level in Bolivar. After two years of decline where the number fell to 1,571, the university is now back up to where it wants to be at 1,607.
Much of the overall growth is due to an emphasis on dual credit, where high school students are taking college level courses. That number spiked from 251 to a record 381. One example of how this is taking place is the inclusion of nine dual credit students from Anchorage, Alaska.
Graduate school enrollment also climbed from 761 to 835 as of Oct. 12. Feeding this increase are vibrant programs in physical therapy, education, and nursing, Taylor said.
The net assets of the university were at $70.7 million as of May 31, Taylor said. Budgets have been balanced six of the last seven years, and audits have been clean.
Another plus is the retention of the university’s BBB-investment rating through a current bond issue that is helping to provide for deferred maintenance projects on campus, Taylor said.
In other news:
• Taylor announced that more than $778,000 has been raised for a $1.5 million upgrade of the football facility including a turf replacement project;
• SBU’s endowment is now at $20.7 million;
• Trustees marked the departure of four of their own as Bill Bolerjack of Mountain View, Marcy Carter of Mt. Vernon, Gary Urich of Bolivar and Mark Rains of Blue Springs all will be rotating off the board at the end of the year. Rains served the last four years as chairman.