Baylor University has a record fall enrollment for the second year in a row, a trend university officials attribute to the school’s growing national profile.
Fall 2012 enrollment reached 15,364 students, narrowly beating the previous record set in 2011 of 15,029 students.
The high-profile successes of Baylor’s athletics program have helped boost interest in the university, from the Lady Bears basketball team’s unprecedented, undefeated championship run this spring to Washington Redskins player and former Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III’s Heisman Trophy victory.
But on top of the increased exposure, the university has developed a number of specialized recruiting programs to draw prospective students, said Sinda Vanderpool, assistant vice provost of academic enrollment management.
For example, Baylor has started “Invitation to Excellence,” an invite-only event targeting high-performing high school students that offers opportunities to interact with faculty members.
Also, the admissions department began hosting “Baylor Joe” coffeehouse meetings in communities across the state with prospective students.
The intimate chats serve as a follow-up to the university’s main campuswide open house “Premiere” program each semester.
Recruiters also have had success targeting out-of-state graduates from Christian private schools and home-schooled students. About 26 percent of the overall enrollment are students from outside of Texas, Vanderpool said.
“One of the things that we’ve really tried to leverage that might set us apart from other national players is our Christian heritage and identity,” Vanderpool said. “Baylor is unique as a research university, an institution that takes academics very seriously . . . but then we also have this faith component.”
Vanderpool said while the increasing fall enrollment diversifies the student body and brings more revenue to the university, the administration wants to keep enrollment steady to maintain the same level of service to students.
Additionally, Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said, increasing interest in the school has allowed Baylor to admit more students in recent years without lowering admissions standards.
“It’s amazing, that we could increase enrollment, yet have our student quality and diversity also increase,” Fogleman said. “Usually, it’s the other way around — you grow your class size and quality suffers — but that didn’t happen this year.”
But enrollment numbers for the two other local colleges project decreases in student population.
Texas State Technical College’s preliminary fall 2012 enrollment is 4,317 students, a 22.5 percent drop from 5,567 students last fall.
Preliminary fall enrollment for McLennan Community College is 9,326 students, the college’s third-highest fall semester numbers.
But that figure is an 8.6 percent drop from the fall 2011 semester, when 10,138 students were enrolled.
MCC President Johnette McKown said the decrease was expected, partially because of the still-sluggish economy, as well as changes to federal financial aid requirements.
“We’re about where we thought we would be because we knew it would be harder for some students to get in because of the financial aid changes,” McKown said. “This isn’t a surprise to us at all.”