For the third year in a row, Philander Smith College is experiencing double digit growth in enrollment. The College is closing out its first week of classes, and preliminary reports show an almost 15% increase over last year’s enrollment.
The trending growth comes after the institution experienced consecutive years of decline in enrollment, dropping as low as 500 students in recent history. Projections calculate this year’s enrollment at over 1,000 students, almost doubling the enrollment in 2014. “This growth is not by chance,” says Philander Smith College President Dr. Roderick L. Smothers, Sr. “It is the direct result of our concentrated efforts to provide educational opportunities to a broader range of students. Our admissions and enrollment management teams work diligently to expose students across the country to the unique opportunities that exist as part of the Philander experience.”
The Institution’s rapid rate of growth is gaining recognition. A recent report from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education noted Philander Smith as the fastest growing four-year institution in the state of Arkansas. Additionally, the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) recognized Philander Smith as the fastest growing Historically Black College or University (HBCU) of its 38 member institutions, growing twice as fast as any other UNCF member school. “Our campus community is thrilled with the enrollment surge, which is evidence of the forward progress being made at our institution,” Smothers says. “This growth comes at a critical time, and shines a light on the key importance of HBCUs and the vital role they play in educating underserved students.”
As with many institutions across the country, accelerated enrollment growth can carry with it a number of challenges, one such challenge being capacity. Since 2016, Philander Smith College’s on-site residential campus facilities have been at full capacity, housing more than 400 students. In 2017, the College constructed Panther Village, a residential, living and learning community for scholars located two blocks from the main campus, to address the needs for overflow housing. With the most recent increase, Philander Smith College will look to expand Panther Village. This extension will add six new modular housing units, increasing the number of students the community can accommodate. The added units at Panther Village will alleviate the off-campus overflow which currently results in a number of students being housed at the LaQuinta Inn and Suites in downtown Little Rock.
“We are committed to providing our students a comfortable, safe and secure housing environment, which we know is essential to their success,” says President Smothers. “We are working expediently to accommodate the accelerated growth with the least amount of disruption to our students’ educational experience.” In keeping with that commitment, the Institution has plans to hire additional 24-hour staffing to cover the growing student community and help ensure security in that area.
In addition to increasing housing capacity, the Administration at Philander Smith College is working to ensure this growth is not lost. Based on preliminary reports, the College has increased retention more than 10% over the previous year. This a direct result of new policies and programming targeted specifically at retaining students. The record growth and increased retention provide encouraging evidence that Philander Smith College is on a forward trajectory to a bigger and brighter future.