East Texas Baptist University has more students attending this year than ever before with 1,613 total students, a 5.2 percent increase over Fall 2017. The Fall 2018 enrollment represents 23.3 percent growth over the last three years. In addition, the University’s 83 percent retention rate continues to rise with expanded student life and spiritual development activities, academic support and opportunities, alumni interactions, donor support, facility improvements, and athletic participation. The collaborative effort of the institution’s Academic Affairs, Athletics, Alumni Relations, Advancement, and Admissions divisions has led to record enrollment and a freshman cohort retention increase of over eight percent and transfer cohort retention increase of over 14 percent since Fall 2017. Graduate students also reached an all-time high with a 14 percent increase.
“The Admissions Staff finds fulfillment in helping students achieve their dream of receiving a Christ-centered education by navigating them through the process, from meeting students at college fairs to moving boxes into their residence halls,” ETBU Vice President of Enrollment and Administrative Affairs Kevin Caffey said. “Each student has a story, and every student contributes to the larger purpose of the University. It is a conviction I have, shared by the ETBU community, to invest in students during this transitional season. If students use the resources put in front of them, they will leave changed and prepared to be successful. I enjoy being a part of bringing more students to ETBU, that they may experience the joy and transformation of Christ and the exciting life here on the Hill.”
The University now offers 11 graduate and 43 undergraduate programs, recently adding a Bachelor of Clinical Lab Science, Master of Science in Kinesiology, Master of Education in College and University Leadership, Master of Education in School Counseling, and Master of Arts in Theological Studies. With program and student population growth comes the need for facility enhancements. East Texas Baptist recently opened the second phase of Louise Ornelas University Park Row Houses, a living-learning community for upperclassmen and graduate students; refurbished the second floor of Linebery Hall for residential housing; and restructured Jarrett Library to house an Honors Hall for scholarly research and focused study. ETBU’s School of Nursing will move East Texas Baptist’s downtown campus in the historic Marshall Grand and renovations are set to begin on academic space for the School of Professional Studies in Craig Hall this spring. These improvements will allow the growing Tiger student population the space needed to thrive academically, spiritually, and socially.
“We want our graduates to be Christian servant leaders and lifelong learners,” ETBU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Thomas Sanders said. “The ‘light of knowledge’ which stands in front of Marshall Hall serves a symbol of the University’s commitment to the integration of academic discipline and faith in Jesus Christ, and our faculty and staff are passionate about investing in every student’s academic and spiritual development. Students who choose to be a Tiger will find quality programs, full support, and genuine community.”
Leading into the Fall 2018 Semester, the University hosted Tiger Camp: ETBU’s Welcome Week to provide a smooth transition for incoming freshmen and transfers. The five-day event invited new students to jump-start their college experience through large group sessions focused on holistic development, small group Bible studies, service projects, and games. Beyond this initial welcome, the Tiger Family enjoyed many events during the first weeks of class, including the Tiger Family Gathering, Church Day, Organization Fair, Back to School Bash, and a community-wide tailgate.
“One of the most rewarding aspects of my position is watching our student leaders serve the incoming students,” ETBU Director of Student Activities Laura Coursey said. “They are all full-time students volunteering because they love ETBU and want to be a part of building community here. Seeing them in action is a great representation of our servant-hearted mission. We host events to create an environment that establishes what it means to live and love as Christ did.”
This summer in order to establish meaningful relationships between alumni, donors, new Tigers, and their families, the Office of Alumni Relations invited both former and incoming students to the Tiger Family Rallies across Texas and Louisiana. The rallies connected the foundation of the University with the vision for its growth.
“The generations of ETBU alumni and friends before you pray that you join the story,” ETBU Coordinator of Gift Accounting Minda Purdie said during this fall’s initial chapel service. “They pray for you to be who God has called you to be – that you embrace your faith, engage your minds, are empowered to become the next generation of Christian servant leaders, and enhance the communities around you. We are here to bring glory to God. Take that task seriously, and it will change you and the world around you.”
ETBU students receive opportunities to apply course content outside of the classroom through service learning initiatives, student organizations, intramurals, club sports, and athletics. After last year’s record-setting athletics and the recent additions of Developmental Women’s Basketball, Men’s and Women’s Golf, and Acrobatics and Tumbling, over 585 total and 280 new student-athletes engage in training, fellowship, discipleship, and global missions. Participation in Tiger Athletics has grown nearly 11 percent over the past year.
“As a Tiger, I have learned that every individual plays a role in reaching a goal, and that community is important,” senior Athletic Training major Reid Adams shared. “ETBU has taught me to lead by example rather than by words. Living out my faith through service has enabled me to further God’s Kingdom in a real way.”
The ETBU student experience is characterized by Christian faith integration. Through ministries, missions, chapel, worship, Bible studies, discipleship, and prayer, the University’s goal is for students to encounter the Lord and discover His plan for their future. While East Texas Baptist continues to see increased enrollment, its mission of providing a transformational, Christ-centered education remains constant.
“Whether you are beginning your first days at ETBU, continuing your college degree, or teaching your twentieth year on the Hill, God has created us for His glory and His purposes,” ETBU President J. Blair Blackburn challenged the ETBU Family during the first week of classes. “When we respond to Christ’s love and His offer of grace by trusting in Him and living for Him, His purposes become our mission. As representatives of Christ and ETBU Tigers, we want you to put belief into practice by helping and serving others.”