Baylor’s minority enrollment is up, freshmen class sets new records

Diversity, retention and graduation rates have all hit a record high in Baylor's 2017 fall enrollment numbers. Bailey VerSteeg | Multimedia Journalist

By Brooke Hill | Staff Writer

Diversity, retention and graduation rates have all hit record highs in Baylor’s 2017 fall enrollment numbers.

Baylor’s 2017 student body is the most diverse ever at the university, with overall minority enrollment up to 35.3 percent from 34.6 percent last year.

“This data provides another indication of Baylor’s strength and resilience, starting with our freshman class exceeding our enrollment projections. Not only are they exceptional students from all across the nation and world, this class is the most selective and most diverse class in Baylor’s history,” said Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone in a press release from the university. “Overall, we have continued our positive momentum with record-high retention and graduation rates, a testament to the hard work and dedication of our outstanding faculty, staff and students.”

According to the press release, Baylor’s freshman enrollment of 3,320 students reveals the following:

  • The acceptance rate of the freshman class was at a record-low 38.9 percent from a total of 37,084 applications, also the most ever.
  • Forty-four percent of this year’s freshmen were in the top 10 percent of their high school class.
  • Diversity among freshmen is at its highest ever, with minority enrollment among first-year students at 37.8 percent, up from 34.2 percent last year.
  • More than 31 percent of the freshman class reported a legacy connection to Baylor.
  • Out-of-state freshman enrollment increased to a record 36.7 percent.
  • Freshmen represent 47 states, the District of Columbia and 36 countries. Other than Texas, the top five states for freshmen are California (249), Colorado (88), Illinois (68), Louisiana (55) and Oklahoma (53).

“We’re always excited for every new class,” said Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Jennifer Carron. “Those are some students that we’ve been working with, sometimes for multiple years, and so it’s really exciting when we see the fruits of our labors and the relationships we’ve built with those students turn into them running the Baylor Line.”

Carron said that the class of 2021 is diverse in many ways, including geographically, racially and ethnically.

“That’s really special,” Carron said. “A lot of private institutions don’t have quite as high of numbers of diverse students. We take it very seriously and we’re really proud of the opportunities that affords students to have enriched enhanced classroom experiences, mixing with students from all walks of life.”

She noted that oftentimes when rates show that an institution is reaching milestones that have not previously been reached, a result of that would be that the legacy population would decrease. That’s not the case with Baylor.

“We have a great combination of students who have a history with Baylor, whether that be through a sibling or a parent or grandparent, and then we have students who have just been exposed to Baylor by happenstance,” Carron said.

Many people across the nation have been surprised that the application rate for Baylor continues to increase despite the recent negative national spotlight.

“It’s been so important for Baylor to say the mission of Baylor University stands,” Carron said. “Students when they come to visit, they see students, they see faculty, they see amazing facilities. They see that what we talk about in our print and online communications is true … students will say ‘you have all these things on my checklist,’ but when they get down to it and they visit they honestly say it just feels right. I think that certainly says the Baylor brand is strong and resilient.”

Another significant statistic involved the advancement in the university’s retention and graduation rates.

The latest retention rate from Fall 2016 to Fall 2017 increased to a record 89.5 percent. The retention rate among Baylor undergraduates from Fall 2016 to Fall 2017 is 91.2 percent, also the highest ever.

“I would say that belonging is the number one factor that correlates with students staying and earning a degree from Baylor,” Associate Vice Provost for Academic Enrollment Management Dr. Sinda Vanderpool wrote in an email to The Lariat. “Each fall, we administer a survey called New2BU early in the fall semester for our new freshmen and transfers. As we regress on past cohorts and study the data, the more likely a student is to ‘strongly agree’ with the statement ‘I belong at Baylor’ the more likely she is to stay and graduate from Baylor.”

Dr. Vanderpool said that students can help improve the retention rate in ways other than just staying at Baylor themselves.

“Students create the culture on campus,” Vanderpool wrote in an email to the Lariat. “When you notice a new student in your class or around campus, consider taking the time to stop and say ‘welcome’ or ask them to coffee. These simple things may make a huge difference in helping that student feel that he belongs. We’ve found that continuing students talking to new students about their own transition, including discussing how they overcame obstacles in the first year, remember that first Chemistry quiz?, can be incredibly impactful.

Baylor’s graduation rates continue to move forward at a record pace. Data from Baylor’s Institutional Research and Testing website shows:

  • the four-year graduation rate among the Fall 2013 cohort at a record 62.9 percent.
  • the five-year graduation rate for the Fall 2012 cohort at a record 77.4 percent.
  • the six-year graduation rate for the Fall 2011 cohort at a record 76.6 percent.
  • “Improving four year graduation rates has a tremendously positive impact on students in the sense of affordability,” Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and Institutional Effectiveness Dr. Wes Null said. “Obviously four years is less expensive than five, and we also know that scholarships, in most if not all cases, only last four years, so we know that the most expensive year is the fifth year and in addition to that students can’t be pursuing other things during that fifth year after they’ve graduated — such as graduate school, professional school or entering the work force, so there’s all sorts of reason why four year rates make sense for students.”

    Baylor’s overall enrollment measured at 17,059 students. The University has enrolled 14,316 undergraduate students and 2,743 graduate and professional students in the Graduate School, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor Law School, Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, the online MBA program in the Hankamer School of Business and Baylor/U.S. Army affiliated degree programs.

    Dr. Null said that some ways students can help improve these rates during their time on campus are to, take their advising session very seriously and prepare for them as their advisors ask them to do; be open and willing to changing majors as soon as possible when they find out that major doesn’t best fit them; study hard, prepare for classes and attend class; take as many hours as they can to challenge themselves, and take classes in the summer.