State of the College: Baxter talks about LaGrange College’s increased enrollment, strategic plan

Published 9:30 am Saturday, September 10, 2022

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It’s been over two years since Susanna Baxter was named president of LaGrange College.

Upon arrival, she had to help the college confront a life-altering pandemic, but now she’s helping guide it through to the other side.

On Thursday, she gave the State of the College address in front of college leadership and community supporters, highlighting many of the positive initiatives either underway or on the horizon. It was the first in-person state of the college address that Baxter had delivered, as her previous were private, virtual speeches.

The big focus was enrollment, as the college is up 6% overall in student population from last year. The freshman class jumped from 132 in 2021 to 226 in 2022.

“We’re up 75% over last year [in incoming freshmen] … We got to 75% because the board and the staff at this college and family work enormously hard to change every facet of how we recruit the students,” Baxter said. “There’s hardly a thing the same as when it was two years ago or a year ago.”

She said LaGrange College has changed its technology, territories, training and communications to better recruit new students.

“We are proud of this increase. We understand why we have this increase,” she said.

“It wasn’t dumb luck. We’re pushing forward because we’re going to build upon this success for the next year, in the next year, and the next year.”

Baxter said the college has a student population of around 678, mostly due to low student enrollment during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s going to take us a while to get back to 1,000,” she said. “But we know we’re going to get there. It’s just going to take time.”

Baxter also talked about how the college has replaced 13 roofs this summer, thanks to a storm that caused some issues, as well as other renovations that were completed around campus.

She also talked about the college’s five-year strategic plan, which was approved in April.

“This plan builds upon our mission, which is rooted in our Wesleyan heritage, and our liberal arts tradition,” Baxter said. “And it leads to our vision, which is the transformation of our students’ lives.”

Baxter said as part of the five-year plan, LaGrange College hopes to start new graduate programs, further standardize its buildings and improve the college’s student retention rate.

She said the tradition at the college is to have students ring the chapel bell when they get a job or get accepted into graduate school. Deemed the “Sound of Success,” she said the latest data available shows 85% of students graduate with a job or a spot in graduate school.

“When they ring [that bell], they think it’s all about them, and I let them think that,” Baxter said with a smile.

“But what I know is it’s about everybody in this room. Because you give your time and your resources to this institution. So thank you for your continued love and support.”