University enrollment sees increase

Story by Kyle Davis

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When thinking of Baker University, it is easy for the Baldwin City campus to come to mind.

Baldwin City holds the College of Arts and Sciences, the university president and a historic past.

“We do have a propensity, if you will, to focus on the main campus, which is very important,” Chief Operating Officer Susan Lindahl said. “It’s the heartbeat, really, of the university.”

However, while the Baldwin City campus has decreased in enrollment numbers, with last year’s high numbers due in part to the addition of the wrestling and women’s bowling programs, enrollment for the university as a whole has increased.

While the Baldwin City campus enrollment decreased from 992 students last year to 968 this year, the university enrollment, as of Sept. 28, as a whole increased to 3,868 students, 15 more students than last year.

“I think it’s only to all of our advantage for all of our programs to perform as well as possible,” Peggy Harris, vice president and dean of the School of Professional and Graduate Studies and School of Education, said. “Baker is stronger in the whole when all of the parts are performing as well as possible.”

While the undergraduate campus is down in numbers, the School of Nursing is full, containing 171 students, which is nine more than last year.

“I’m really pleased to see that we’re having this continuous interest in nursing because they will be needed in the future,” Kathleen Harr, vice president and dean of the School of Nursing, said.

Out of the 40 new nursing students this fall, 21 are transfers from the Baker University College of Arts and Sciences, which is the highest number to ever transfer to the School of Nursing at one time.

“I think it’s a win-win for the School of Nursing and also for the College of Arts and Sciences, that those students then have the continuity of a Baker education,” Harr said.

The enrollment numbers of SPGS and SOE will continue to fluctuate during the semester, but as of Sept. 28, SPGS had 1,795 students and the SOE graduate program had 934 students.

“It’s kind of hard to predict, but in general, in times … where people have been losing jobs, people have returned to school in greater numbers, because they see the value of increased education to make themselves more marketable,” Harris said.

Lindahl said even small increases in enrollment numbers, especially with the economy in its current state, are a move in the right direction.

“I think overall, you know, it balances out to a positive. Not a high number, but a definite plus,” she said. “We hope, in this economy, to be holding our own and when we see a small increase, then I think that’s something certainly to celebrate.”

Lindahl said the extra tuition money made by Baker helps the operations budget and allows the university to reinvest in the institution.

“When numbers are down … you’re very flat for spending, and we would even have to borrow to be able to spend,” Lindahl said. “Where as now, we have an opportunity to recalibrate a little bit in a positive way.”