Fashionably high results

Fashion programs help Stephens draw largest incoming class since ’91
Tuesday, June 28, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:02 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

[Note: this story has been modified since its original posting.]


A photograph with a story Tuesday about Stephens College orientation showed students talking with academic advisers, but the financial aid and other student services were located in another part of Silverthorne Arena. A caption said otherwise.

With fall registration in full swing Monday and today, Stephens College is getting a look at its largest incoming class since 1991.

The new class has 237 freshmen and transfer students, up from 199 last year. The 19 percent increase — a 35 percent increase in freshmen only — marks the start of a four-year plan to increase full-time undergraduate enrollment to 900.

Stephens President Wendy Libby credits the boost to interest in one of Stephens’ traditional strengths: fashion. The department has five majors: fashion communication, fashion design and product development, fashion marketing and management, graphic design and interior design.

Rex Stevens, vice president for academic affairs, said he thinks the increase is also due to Stephens’ improving reputation.

“Stephens has some positive stories right now, and people are hearing it,” he said.

For the college to meet its goal of 900 undergraduates by the fall of 2009, it will have to increase enrollment by more than 80 students each year. The undergraduate class for the fall is expected to be 550 to 570 students, Stevens said.

“You could say we have some work to do,” he said.

Recent years have seen Stephens and the other 130 or so women’s colleges across the country struggle with low enrollment, Stevens said. In 2001, Stephens’ undergraduate numbers sank to 414 — a painful contrast with the 1970s, when enrollment exceeded 2,200.

“A lot of (the problem) was demographics, along with the popularity of women colleges,” Stevens said. “They weren’t meeting the needs of women. … They seem to be doing better now — we certainly are.”

This week, about 700 students, parents and other family members are attending the registration.

Mallore Caldwell, 17, traveled from Austin, Texas, with her mother and grandmother to register for classes and to find out more about student and residential life, financial aid and food services.

Caldwell looked at three other schools but said Stephens was always at the top of her list. She will follow her interests in sewing and fashion by pursuing a major in fashion marketing and management.

When she started to look at Stephens a year ago, Caldwell found the college appealing for many reasons. “I really like the small class sizes and the diversity of the students,” she said.

Brenda Kennedy, Caldwell’s mother, is pleased with her daughter’s decision.

“It seems like a good fit,” Kennedy said. “Everyone has been very personable and accessible. It’s a very positive relationship already.”

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