The numbers on enrollment: does Christian culture outweigh enrollment cost?

The Arkansas Division of Higher Education reported an 8.4% drop in enrollment for Central Baptist College’s last academic year in their Fall 2019 report. 

In one year, the college dropped from 664 students enrolled to 608, a decline of  22.9% since 2014. 

CBC is not the only college with enrollment decreases as schools across the state face dips in their enrollment. The college has also raised their tuition price by 3%  from $490 to $505 per credit hour. 

Ryan Johnson, vice president for enrollment management, says tuition affects enrollment but CBC’s values, academics and the Christ-centered environment outweigh the cost of enrolling. 

“The stronger the enrollment, the better the learning environment and student life opportunities,” says Johnson. “[CBC] is also a great place for lifelong relationship building, so the more diverse the enrollment, the greater the relationship potential there will be.” 

 Johnson also says enrollment is down across the U. S. and not just at CBC. He says the reason for this is high school graduates can make a solid income without going to college due to how well the economy is doing.  

“College is expensive, especially small private schools, and a lot of students either don’t want to pay the cost or are not prepared to pay the cost even if they see the value in education,” says Johnson. “We are no exception to these same struggles other schools are having.” 

Dusty Bender, division chair of humanities and arts, says the division has faced a downward slide in enrollment because students do not see the value in a liberal arts degree. 

“[Students think] if you get a degree in history or English, the only thing you can do is teach, but there is a whole world of things you can do,” says Bender. “We have people who are involved in business, teaching, coaching or public relations. The skill set, synthesizing and complex thinking, those are skills the world is looking for.”

Bender says he is an emphatic supporter of the college and he wants his grandchildren to attend one day because of the school’s Christ-centered environment. 

“I am 100% convinced this is God’s school,” says Bender. “I’m delighted we got that Christian distinctive and we market it.”

Elizabeth Gomez, division chair of natural and health sciences, says some of the departments in her division, such as Kinesiology, have increased in enrollment. 

“[Kinesiology is] the biggest major on campus,” says Gomez. “In sciences, the courses that the kinesiology majors have to take are very large, particularly anatomy. We have gone from one lab section to three [for that class] to accommodate enrollment.” 

Gomez says the college can compete against both public and private institutions for enrolling students. 

“It is possible our scholarships are not as competitive, but if you look at the bottom line, we are less expensive than many other private institutions,” says Gomez. “To compare to the secular schools, our Christian viewpoint is a big [factor]. The position on issues like evolution will be different here [as] we take the biblical point of view.”

Alumna Shayla Bowman graduated in 2018 with a business administration degree. She says she came for the Christ-centered culture. 

“As a student, I loved being on campus [because] I felt like I was home,” says Bowman. “I am the person I am today because of the people who were at the school and the relationships I built with my teachers. I still text my teachers – you can’t do that anywhere else.” 

Photo Illustration by Haley Lingenfelter

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