Saint Augustine’s has had some struggles in the past couple of years with probation and other problems, but the university appears to be back on track with student enrollment. This semester has seen an influx of freshmen students. The freshman class jumped from 211 last fall to 249 this semester.
While total enrollment is still below the peak of several years ago, the increase is a big jump for a school just coming off probation and other serious issues with its image.
The increase in enrollment did not just happen – it was the result of hard work. Admissions Officer Thomas Clark, who graduated from Saint Augustine’s in 1976 with a degree in physical education, was one of the people who worked hard to make enrollment bounce back.
“We have a team, and our director brought in two other recruiters that he knew, and they’re old recruiters,” Clark explained. “When I say old recruiters – they know how to recruit students. We knocked on doors, we went to high schools constantly, talking to guidance counselors, teachers, principals, and whoever would talk to us.”
An important part of the team’s effort was follow-up, Clark explained. “My follow up method was to turn in my follow up list to some alumni that I had recruited, that I knew I could trust, to make some phone calls to these students and parents as well,” he said. “So this is how it all came about. …It takes a lot of going back over and over again to make sure that the student is comfortable, finding out what the student needs.”
Money is a big part of the equation, Clark said: “Financial aid is a very key part of recruitment! My goal is to make sure that all of the students we brought in for this year get in their financial aid packages early.”
Clark did a fair amount of travelling. The majority of students came from Charlotte and Salisbury area., he said. “We had some out-of-state students from Washington D.C, Columbia, Ohio, New York, as well. South Carolina has a large number of students as well. We wanted to build up the South Carolina area as well, because South Carolina and Virginia, being so close to North Carolina, is a good feeding ground for Saint Augustine’s University.”
Asked what his pitch to potential students was, Clark said it was “nothing specific.” He emphasizes the school’s family atmosphere. “You meet a lot of faculty and staff. Here it’s almost 20 to 1 compared to much larger schools, where you have 100 to 1. Here at Saint Augustine’s, you have a small environment where everyone knows everyone…Everyone is someone at Saint Augustine’s, and you can come to Saint Augustine’s and be whatever you want to be,” Clark said. “I tell students this: “You have a dream. Only you can fulfill your dream. Saint Augustine’s will help you with your dream. No one denies you but you.”
Clark achieved his own dreams while a student here. He was a part of the first Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC), Alpha Phi Omega, and the Saint Augustine’s Gospel Choir, where he was involved in their first album. He has remained a proud family member of Saint Augustine’s ever since. “I love Saint Augustine’s. My blood is blue and white” he said.
Among the new students is Mariah Massey, a communications major from Dunn, North Carolina. She had been acquainted with Saint Augustine’s for a while due to her mother’s work at the MLK Cafeteria but was undecided on whether or not to become a student.
“I felt like I could give SAU a chance at pursuing who I wanted to be and be the person I wanted to show to the world,” Massey stated. Massey has a passion for singing and was drawn in by our choir. “I’ve actually seen videos of the University Chamber Singers here and honestly I was blown away” she said. “…Seeing that choir and how much they have excelled in voice really captivated me and pushed me to choose SAU.”
Besides singing, Massey is a member of the university’s Film Club.
And alumni like Clark are not the only recruiters. Saint Augustine’s is also getting students from overseas, like Peter Musenge, a biology major from Lusaka, Zambia. “I heard about Saint Augustine’s from a nonprofit organization that helps students from marginalized communities/countries have access to education,” Musenge said. “Saint Augustine’s was one of my options on the list of schools, but Saint Augustine’s University was the school that showed belief in my potential and trusted I could do well by offering me a very substantial scholarship.”
Sinanzwayinkosi P. Ndhlovu, an engineering major who arrived here from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, learned about SAU from the same nonprofit organization. “Saint Augustine’s is a diverse community” Ndhlovu said. “I got to meet people from various backgrounds and cultures, helping me to explore different avenues, and appreciate other people’s perspectives that are different from mine.”
Now, Clark is working on retaining the students his team recruited. “With Raleigh Wake alumni, we have divided up the freshman class. Each alumni takes five or six students, and work with them on a weekly/daily basis. When I say work with them, I mean call in, see how things are going, see if they need help with classes, find them a tutor if they need a tutor. We try to meet the first Tuesday night of every month at the library, and if the students need anything, they can
come by the library and tell us. If they don’t come, then they can always come to the Alumni House, and leave a message about what they need help with.”
Meanwhile, Clark has already started working on next year. “And, right now, we’re well ahead,” he said. “The goal is to build Saint Augustine’s back up…I’m trying to contact all the students of Wake County, as well as teachers, guidance counselors, and parents. I’m gonna be passing out flyers around barber shops, stores, anywhere I can put up a flyer. You may find one on a tree! That’s my style! I just keep going over and over and over until I get what I’m looking for.”
– Garrett Davis