A challenging time for higher education hasnâ€™t slowed enrollment growth at Williams Baptist University. WBUâ€™s on-campus enrollment for the fall semester increased more than 12 percent over last year, marking the second straight year of double-digit gains for the private, Christian university in Walnut Ridge, Ark.
Numbers were up across the board at WBU, including a record-breaking freshman class. The growth was propelled by the universityâ€™s new Williams Works initiative and strong recruiting numbers for WBU athletic teams and music groups, among other factors.
â€œThere are many people across campus who worked very hard to bring these students to Williams, overcoming the hurdles of a very challenging year. Beyond that, it is clear to us that these incredible enrollment numbers far exceed our human abilities. Simply stated, God is blessing WBU in a mighty way, and we are both humbled and deeply thankful to Him,â€ said Dr. Stan Norman, president of the university.
WBUâ€™s on-campus headcount this fall is 581 undergraduate students. That number reflects a 12.4 percent jump from last fallâ€™s figure of 517. Williams saw an even larger increase in its full-time equivalent, or FTE, which is a critical budget figure for colleges and universities. The on-campus FTE stands at 594, a 14 percent increase over last year.
WBU has 220 freshmen on campus this fall, a record in the modern history of the university, in addition to 67 students who transferred to Williams or are otherwise new to the school since last year. The total population of new students is up eight percent over last year.
Returning students also gave WBUâ€™s enrollment a boost. The 294 on-campus returners reflect a 17 percent increase.
More students are living in WBU campus housing, as well. Williams has 422 students in its residence halls this fall, an increase of 11 percent.
â€œEveryone at WBU deserves a thank you for their hard work in bringing students to this institution. Vice President for Enrollment Management Angela Flippo and the admissions and financial aid staffs did amazing work. Our coaches and the directors of our music groups recruited diligently and very effectively for their programs, even with the many restrictions necessitated by the pandemic. The effort by our entire university family was tremendous,â€ Norman commented.
â€œThe Williams Works initiative brought in more than 40 students in its first year, accounting for a significant share of our growth, not to mention the level of excitement it continues to generate both on and off campus,â€ the president said. WBU launched Williams Works this fall, giving selected students the opportunity to work in exchange for their cost of education.
In addition to its on-campus numbers, WBU saw growth in its online programs. Williams offers two online masterâ€™s degrees in education, as well as an online bachelorâ€™s in criminal justice. Combined, those programs account for 39 students this fall, a 30 percent increase.
Total enrollment moved above the 600 mark, with 620 enrolled overall at WBU, and that number stands to increase as off-campus extension sites report numbers in the days ahead.
â€œThe most exciting thing is what these numbers and percentages represent. These numbers reflect young men and young women with their adult lives before them, lives that can be transformed by the Christ-centered commitment and academic excellence of Williams Baptist University. It is humbling to realize the impact WBU will have on their lives, and the impact their lives will have on the world,â€ Norman said.
It is the second year in a row for WBU to experience double-digit percentage growth. On-campus headcount has increased by 126 students since the fall of 2018, which is a 27 percent jump over two years.
WBU began its fall semester on Tuesday, August 18. Enrollment figures were compiled after the universityâ€™s fall enrollment period ended Friday.