Stillman College President Ernest McNealey said he expects enrollment at the college will increase in the fall semester, bucking a decline in students since 2000.
“All of our numbers are dramatically up," McNealey said after speaking to the Tuscaloosa Rotary Club on Tuesday.
Applications have doubled and the number of students admitted to the college has increased by 50 percent, he said.
Stillman had a record 1,530 students in 2000, but enrollment at the private college has dropped by 48 percent. In fall 2005, about 800 students enrolled, college officials said.
The historically black college has been focusing on quality instead of quantity, McNealey has said.
In his speech Tuesday, McNealey said people outside the college have not always understood Stillman’s mission.
“We are trying to provide an elite, quality education for poor kids to turn the American paradigm on its head," he said.
Almost 90 percent of the college’s students qualify for a full federal loan, and about half come from homes with less than $35,000 in family income.
Stillman’s mission is to provide structured and quality education to students who can least afford it, he said.
“We think it’s important that for kids that have had a difficult life to have their expectations raised," McNealey said.
That success of that depends on finding more reliable donors, he said.
At $17,100, the college’s annual tuition is lower than most historically black colleges in the region, but it is higher than all state public institutions.
“It’s critical to the interest of the institution, but we serve kids who simply cannot afford what we provide," McNealey said.
He said one change that has occurred since his arrival in 1997 has been the shrinking number of students coming from Tuscaloosa and Jefferson counties. In 1997, about 78 percent of students came from the two counties. Today, 14 percent are from Jefferson County. McNealy said Tuscaloosa County has had a similar decline.
However, students from outside Alabama and other parts of the state are coming in larger numbers, he said. A renewed emphasis on recruiting students from outside the state has meant less time recruiting nearby, he said.
Now, recruiting efforts are beginning to pay off, he said.
“It always takes a bit of time for the message to take a hold when you go into new places," McNealey said after the meeting.