Arkansas Baptist focuses efforts on new enrollments and student retention

Arkansas Baptist focuses efforts on new enrollments and student retention

By BCN Staff Reporter Mecca Hinnant — July 6, 2021 — Arkansas Baptist College President Dr. Carlos Clark announced Tuesday, June 22 that the first 500 Pell Grant eligible students would be awarded a free semester for the upcoming Fall 21 semester. With the announcement he assured those interested no additional loans would be required upon completion of all requirements, listed on the school’s website and Facebook page. 

BCN Chief Creative Officer Angel Burt had a candid conversation with Jeff Sellers, ABCs vice president of institutional advancement, about the school’s recent marketing tactics and what the college’s plans are for the future.

Recruited by Dr. Clark, Sellers has an extensive background in fundraising, studied marketing and finance at Case Western Reserve University and worked at Wilberforce University in the past.  He said he was brought on to focus his efforts on the college’s revenue and fundraising efforts specifically.

“What we’re really doing and why I was recruited by Dr. Clark is we are setting up a traditional annual fund. Planned giving, grant writing and really the nuts and bolts of fundraising,” said Sellers, adding that ABC is currently facing accreditation probation for financial concerns. 

He said the school has seen an increase in application submissions and call volume since the announcement, but students still have until the start of classes (Aug. 2) to enroll and take advantage of the offer. “We’re doing a lot of things to focus on student retention, including resuming in-person classes in the fall,” said Sellers. “We feel that having more of a campus atmosphere should do more for student retention.”

As reported by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center in April, three months into the spring semester, undergraduate enrollment is in its steepest decline so far since the pandemic began (-5.9%). Community college enrollment fell by double digits (-11.3%) for the first time in this pandemic. Furthermore “students aged 18-20, comprising over 405 of all undergraduates, saw the largest enrollment decline of any age group this spring (-7.2%), with the steepest drop occurring at community colleges (-14.6%).”

With enrollment on a steady decline at ABC and colleges nationwide, Sellers says this was the most innovative way to allocate the required funds to student awards while encouraging new students to enroll.

Now a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), Arkansas Baptist will be able to offer their students a four year athletic program and more scholarship opportunities, probably the biggest change they have made to the program structurally thus far. “Recruiting efforts for the 3 main sports are underway as well as a potential baseball program in the works,” said the ABC vice president.

Moving forward, the college is focused on satisfying it’s requirements for the Higher Learning Commission to assure their accreditation is no longer an issue. “We believe that will have a direct impact on our ability to even further improve our enrollment figures and then really align the college with the needs and wants of students today,” he said

Sellers believes once they are able to satisfy the HLC requirements, the college will be put back on the traditional accreditation path. What comes with that is ten years of being accredited and being able to then focus on their day-to-day operations, “ It’ll be a blessing when that day comes,” said Sellers. The college is expecting a visit from the HLC in September and hoping for good news to follow.

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