Written by Hillsboro Free Press Tuesday, 29 September 2009 12:55
Tabor College celebrated its centennial last fall with an enrollment of 612 students—the largest in its 100-year history.
Now, for the second year in a row, the college has set new enrollment records, beginning its 101st year with an unprecedented 640 students, a 4.5 percent increase over the previous year.
The registrar’s official tally following the 20th day of fall classes, which was Monday, Sept. 21, shows enrollment records set by the college in five areas:
• overall enrollment (640);
• overall full-time equivalency enrollment (596);
• full-time students on the Hillsboro campus (504);
• full-time students in all programs (521);
• graduate students (22).
While many colleges are finding it difficult to meet enrollment and retention goals during the current economic downtown, Tabor College President Jules Glanzer credits the record enrollment at Tabor to “hard work, strategic decisions and the grace of God.
“Having two years of record enrollment is a gift from God and a tribute to the hard work of many people who invest of themselves in the mission and vision of Tabor College,” Glanzer said. “It was a team effort.”
Of the 184 new students enrolled on the Hillsboro campus this fall, 140 are freshmen. Seventy-five members of the freshman class are Kansas residents, and 65 are from out-of-state, including four international students.
New transfer student enrollment is 44, equaling last year’s number.
The record-setting enrollment was bolstered by a concurrent rise in student retention at Tabor College, which, from last spring to this fall, was 86 percent, the highest since 2002.
At the School of Adult and Graduate Studies in Wichita, 99 undergrads and 22 graduate students have enrolled, up from 93 undergrads and 11 graduate students last year. More than 70 students are enrolled in nursing degree-completion programs for the fall term.
The school has begun a distance nursing education site in Colby, providing face-to-face learning experiences for rural nurses in northwest Kansas.
The college also is offering an online RN-BSN degree program, with immersion experiences, which has been the most requested nursing department program, according to Tona Leiker, dean of the School of Adult and Graduate Studies and chair of the nursing department.
Leiker predicts that the approval of the restricted-licensure program in teacher education and the reestablishment of the college’s master of education degree program will bring continued growth to the school’s graduate program.
The school’s master of business administration program has doubled in size, to 22 students enrolled this fall.
“We are serving the needs of adult learners and providing them with opportunities of hope, engagement and career advancement, which make for a promising future at the School of Adult and Graduate Studies,” Leiker said.
President Glanzer agreed, adding, “Students enrolled at AGS experience life transformation just as they do at the undergraduate programs in Hillsboro.”
The overall recruiting effort at the college was orchestrated by Linda Cantwell, vice president for enrollment management and marketing. Last September she succeeded Rusty Allen, who became vice president for athletics.
In her first year in the position, Cantwell continued to build upon the processes and strategies Allen and his team had developed to achieve the recording-breaking numbers, while incorporating new relationship-building strategies with prospective students.
“We knew this year held enormous challenges for us, with the change of leadership, conversion of the database, three new admissions counselors, and the downturn in the nation’s economy,” Cantwell said.
“However, we also knew the Lord was bigger than all of those challenges and changes. We believed that he would keep his hand on Tabor College while guiding and directing us in how we spent our most precious commodity—time.”
Some Tabor admissions counselors spent additional time meeting prospective students face-to-face, while others incorporated new social media tools, such as Facebook and Twitter, to connect with students digitally.
Outreach also was enhanced by hosting special on-campus events, including “Girlfriend’s Getaway” for high-achieving female students, “On the Spot Transfer Student Day,” and even a “Summer Sizzle Celebration” designed to keep connected with students in the summertime.
Despite the long odds and long hours, the Cantwell-led enrollment management team pursued its mission. That’s because, Cantwell said, recruiting students to Tabor College is more than just a job for her and her team.
“On several occasions over the past year, my admissions counselors have said to me, ‘Linda, this is my ministry—talking to students about Tabor is my way of giving my time, talents and strengths back to the Lord,’” Cantwell said. “I celebrate the results of their hard work.”
She added, “It took more than the 12-member enrollment management team to make this happen. The entire campus partnered with us to help produce the record we realized this fall. It seems like such a cliché, I know, but it really was a team effort.”
Cantwell said over the past years more than 311 prospective students came to campus for individual customized visits, compared to 97 visits the year before.
“Tabor faculty met with each and every one of them, and then many faculty members sent personal notes and made telephone calls as well,” Cantwell said. “They were an incredible support base for us.”
The athletics coaching staff were critical in identifying students who might be a good “fit” for Tabor, Cantwell said. As a result, the athletic department exceeded both retention and new-student recruitment goals it had set.
“My hat’s off to the coaches who worked tirelessly in recruiting godly and gifted athletes,” she said. “They worked with such a positive spirit all year long, recruiting students who desired an education at a faith-based institution and also wanted to participate in athletics. All those many miles, nights away from home, and telephone calls paid off.”
While Cantwell and her team were leading the effort to enroll new students, Amy Kjellin, director of student success, was taking steps to increase retention on the Hillsboro campus.
For example, during the summer months, faculty, administrators and admissions counselors telephoned students whose names appeared on the list of those not expected to return. As a result, many of those students returned to campus this fall after all.
According to Eric Codding, vice president of student life, learning and formation, about half of the students who enroll in college every year in this country do not graduate within six years. With its focus on one-on-one attention, Tabor students are performing better.
“Better retention is a sign of better health,” Codding said. “We’ve made a concerted effort to surround our students and encourage them to invest in all that Tabor has to offer.
“Higher retention rates suggest that our students are pleased with their choice to attend Tabor,” he added. “This speaks well of our supportive environment that emphasizes one-on-one attention and commitment to the development of each student.”
Embracing the vision
According to Glanzer, what is more important than the strategies and tactics being used to improve recruiting and retention, is the fact that students, and their parents, have been persuaded by the college’s vision: “To be the college of choice for students who seek a life-transforming, globally relevant and decidedly Christian education.”
“During orientation I repeatedly had parents tell me that the reason they wanted their son or daughter to come to Tabor was because of our Christ-centered approach to education,” Glanzer said.
“In some ways, we can say that our growth is due to our commitment to being ‘Decidedly Christian.’ In a broken world, Tabor helps students develop a mature Christian world view that provides a foundation for meaningful living. This is attractive to many parents.”
On the rebound
Glanzer added that record enrollment and high retention was welcomed news after last year’s painful budget cuts, staff reductions and loss of endowment revenue because of the economic downturn.
While outlining an optimistic and pragmatic plan to redesign the college for the future, Glanzer cut more than $500,000 from the school’s $10 million operating budget and reduced 11 employees from the campus workforce, beginning with the 2009-10 school year.
“Last spring was a very difficult time for all of us,” Glanzer said. “Reducing the budget and staff was very painful. I know that some are wondering if we acted prematurely, but the budget cuts from last spring and the record enrollment this fall helped us avoid a major financial crisis this year.
“The record enrollment also has allowed us to not have to make additional cuts this fall.”
In addition to record number of students, donations to the college were at an all-time high.
“We cannot forget the many constituents who pray regularly and give faithfully to the mission and ministry of Tabor College,” Glanzer said.
“While we were all working hard, our constituents gave over $1 million dollars to our operating budget and over $1 million in restricted giving plus gifts to the stadium campaign.”