By Clara Snyder | Personal editor
Finalized in July, Baylor’s Strategic enrollment management (SEM) lays the groundwork to enhance Baylor’s future and position as a national university.
Moving toward greater diversity, tuition aids, and graduation rates, the SEM plan aims to foster the future of student enrollment success.
Application and admission rates fluctuated in the decade leading up to Baylor’s record enrollment of 20,626 students in fall 2021. Despite this milestone, Provost Nancy Brickhouse said Baylor is not looking to expand the undergraduate population; the motivation to increase the number of applications comes rather from the objective of increasing diversity.
“In order to achieve the goals of brighter diversity, we simply need to have a larger pool of applicants,” Brickhouse said. “Over the next five years, our goal is to put in place specific initiatives… We are particularly looking to reach underrepresented minority populations earlier and more persistently in order to increase the pool of [diverse] candidates.”
Beyond promoting a more diverse student body, the SEM plan hopes to foster individual academic and financial success for the wide range of students enrolled at Baylor.
Brickhouse said several initiatives are underway to support academic success, ranging from ensuring students are in the right major to helping them find their sense of belonging in college. These areas of support help achieve the plan’s goal of increasing graduation rates.
“We constantly think about [and] want to make sure we admit students who will be successful at Baylor,” Brickhouse said. “For us to bring in students and for them to not finish or not be able to graduate – then they spent a lot of money, [have] got nothing as a result and are probably worse off.
Other university organizations such as the Student Foundation and Student Government share this goal of supporting the student body as part of the growth of the university.
Andy VanZanten, director of the Student Foundation, said via email that the organization’s mission is to serve Baylor’s past, present and future. In the organization’s more than 50 years of service, Student Foundation has witnessed campus growth and change.
“Our ability to provide scholarships to Baylor students has also grown, and our members are working hard to continue that growth,” VanZanten said. “We were delighted to reward 102 Baylor students [with] Scholarships of $1,500 or $3,000 for the 2022-2023 academic year.
The Student Government Stipend Fund plays an important role in pairing with student activities to host a wide range of events such as Diadeloso and Christmas the Fifth.
Woodlands junior and student body external vice president Nick Madincea said the fund received $360,000 this year, up $150,000 from the previous year.
“Our overall budget this year is a bit larger due to increased revenue with Baylor, having more students here, but also having decreased university-wide expenses. . [after] COVID-19,” Madincea said. “I anticipate that if things continue to go well for the university, we should also see growth at SGAF.”
Madincea said student government has recently made strides toward affordability for students in areas of average spending, with one example being the development of a graduation gown rental service.
Nacogdoches sophomore and student senator finance chair Logan Lee said their leadership is working to diversify the allocation of funds.
“The goal that student government has this year in general is to help better represent all of our students,” Lee said. “We are really excited to partner with new organizations or organizations that have never received funding from the Allocation Fund before.”
According to Baylor Financial Services, approximately 92% of students receive some form of tuition assistance. The SEM plan aims to promote affordability by stabilizing the average student tuition discount rate at 40% by 2027.
“We know there are families who really need help, especially with rising inflation,” Brickhouse said. “We are looking at very strategic and specific initiatives to provide support to students who need it most.”
Brickhouse also said that while the university may not be responding directly to the loan forgiveness plan underway at the federal level, it is acutely aware of the challenges students face with debt. The SEM plan’s focus on graduation and retention rates may sequentially flatten the curve of long-term student debt.
“Getting a four-year degree is really important in terms of cost containment,” Brickhouse said. “If you take more than four years, your debt goes up, your financial aid goes down, and you start taking out loans.”
Brickhouse said building the value of Baylor’s degree is something the university thinks about every day. As a 1983 Baylor graduate, Brickhouse said her degree was something people took note of. She also said the value of a Baylor degree continues to rise as does the prestige of the university.
“The R1 designation increases the value of a Baylor degree,” Brickhouse said. “The kind of experiences students can have doing research as undergraduates – which offers publication as undergraduates, access to graduate school, and internship opportunities that add value to a Baylor degree.”