Enrollment growth at Tarleton


Caleb Chapman, Director of Student Affairs Marketing and Communications

One doesn’t have to look far to see visible signs of growth at Tarleton State University. A growth that is undoubtedly attributed to the rapid increase in enrollment over the last decade – the number of students has increased by more than 37 percent just since 2007.

To say that the Tarleton landscape has changed during this time would be an understatement. The university has continued to expand far beyond its original 40 acres with a dozen new buildings, four campuses and a growing online community. As I drive onto the Stephenville campus each morning for work, I often find myself in awe at how unrecognizable it is compared to my days as an undergraduate.

When I first stepped through the Tarleton gates as a freshman in 1999, the university was celebrating its 100th birthday and there was an enrollment of just over 6,100 students. Coming from a small town, even that seemed overwhelming. My anxiety quickly dissipated, though, as I was greeted almost immediately like I was an old friend. It didn’t take long to realize that I was home.

Enrollment at Tarleton has more than doubled since that time but one thing I feel hasn’t changed is a culture among students and staff that continues to create that small-town sense of friendliness and pride. Despite a completely different Tarleton skyline, there is a definite familiarity that never seems to go away.

There’s still talk of parking issues. Everyone still knows everyone else’s business. You can still walk across campus assured that you’ll see someone you know – exchanging a smile, a “hello,” a handshake or a hug. People still hold the door open for the person behind them. There’s still an unexplainable connection between folks here that prevents you from knowing a stranger.

Tarleton insiders used to say we were the “best kept secret in Texas,” referring to its small enrollment but mighty spirit. As time has gone on and those numbers have increased, it’s now said that “the secret is out.” I hope that as Tarleton continues to grow and expand that its sense of community doesn’t disappear. One of the things I hear most often from visitors is that there is just a natural, compelling, and welcoming “feeling” that you get when walking around this campus. It’s a feeling that most of us likely take for granted.

Since Tarleton held it’s first classes on Sept. 4, 1899, with 175 students, a lot has changed. Its seen rapid growth and sometimes even faster declines. It’s been on the brink of extension once or twice, but it has always persevered. The one constant has been the people – no matter the size or enrollment of the institution, there has always been a true passion of those here to ensure its success. As one of the last lines in the Tarleton Founder’s Song goes – which was first performed in 1902 – “Long may our college stand, a beacon in this land.”

I’ve never seen an image of John Tarleton even hinting at a grin, but I can only imagine that he’s smiling down on this institution that bears his name.