Across America, the 1920s was a period of college expansion and increased access for students. Baylor University was not exempt from these national trends. Compared to previous eras, the 1920s was a time of immense growth on Baylor’s campus in multiple areas, including number of academic programs, structural improvements, and student enrollment. According to Baylor’s student newspaper, enrollment increased by nearly 50% during this era with a particular gain in number of females and a sizable group of men returning from World War I. Therefore, Baylor made changes and accommodations to increase accessibility for students.
Structurally, Baylor added new academic programs and further developed its Dallas campus. It constructed new facilities that enlarged the campus and made it possible to accommodate a greater number of students. The relationship between increased enrollment and increased expansion is complex, but it is clear that they are situated within the same causal loop. Regardless of cause, Baylor’s expansions contributed to its position as a respected and relevant American university and increased accessibility to prospective students.
The percentage of women enrolled increased from 53% in 1921 to 58% in 1930, and this increased enrollment affected women’s access to college as well as their experiences in college. Although women were granted increasing enrollment during this decade, their experiences were rarely equal to men’s once on campus. Societal pressures perpetuated the unequal treatment of women on campus because women continued to be seen as physically unequal to men. Women’s access to certain majors and student organizations was limited to the “women’s sphere,” but women did experience some increase in opportunity during the 1920s.
Although true that Baylor’s men experienced greater overall access to academic programs and student organizations, specific access to dormitory housing was granted exclusively to women until the 1920s with the construction of Brooks Hall, Baylor’s first dormitory for men. The need for campus housing for women was driven by a concern for safety, while the new need for housing for men was a consequence of the huge increase in student enrollment. Very simply, Baylor needed to figure out what to do with its men; between 1922 and 1924, the number of male students living in Waco grew from 611 to 848. There was a high demand for rooms in Brooks Hall, and its residential culture resulted in greater campus involvement among the men, increased academic success, and a vision for development into gentlemen. Brooks Hall was a “real home for men,” and this development of its residents would not have been possible without access to residential housing.
In sum, increased enrollment at Baylor resulted in more access for its students, though more access did not necessarily result in equal experiences among its student population. The 1920s were years of clear, though incremental, improvements when it comes to student access. In light of this era and Baylor’s geographical situation in the South, it was a truly progressive university in terms of access when compared to other universities during the 1920s.
To read the Access at Baylor articles, follow the links below:
Brooks Hall and Access to Residential Living: Creating Men “Fit for Life Here and Hereafter” (by Daniel Schoettmer)
Road to Educational Equality: Women’s Access at Baylor from 1921-1930 (by Misha DeLong)