Students and Funding Higher Education at Baylor University Between 1900 and 1920

by Emily Riley

Throughout the history of higher education in the United States funding has always been one of the main issues. Whether it is the college trying to find enough money to fund the programs and day-to-day operations or students trying to find enough money to attend college, money has always been an issue attached to higher education. Although the tuition rates at Baylor between 1900-1920 were low, costs were still prohibitively high in this era before Federal student aid. Nevertheless students found creative ways to fund their education if they could not otherwise pay for it. Motivated students are typically able to find a way to get the education that they desire.

Tuition Rates at Baylor

Tuition at Baylor remained as stable as the university could keep it during this time period. In 1900 tuition varied by department between $90 and $108. Tuition for the college was $60 and the cost for the academy was $50 a year. During the 1901 school year Baylor saw the largest income during the first quarter of school than they had ever had before. More and more students were enrolling and the school was offering around two hundred and fifty classes to accommodate all of its students (The Lariat, 1901). In the President’s report in the November 9th issue of the Lariat he also points out that:

It must not be forgotten that an institution for higher education can not be maintained on tuition fees here or anywhere else. This fact is so well understood that hundreds of thousands, and even millions of dollars, are being given each year by our brethren in other states for the endowment of their colleges and universities. We can no longer postpone the issue. It is necessary now to give Baylor University the bed-rock foundation of endowment, or the fruit of half a century of self-denying sacrifice and effort will be lost.

Samuel Palmer Brooks was passionate about making sure that the University was funded and made an effort to talk about all of the great things that the school was able to do for students in order to try and gain other donors. In addition to having a large income and enrollment of students the university was also seeing the largest enrollment of ministerial students it had ever seen before. The cost, however, of providing these students free tuition was costing Baylor about $5,000 a year. Around $11,600 had been given to a fund that was meant to help offset this mounting cost, however President Brooks realized that if the number of these students kept rising at the rate they were going the university would need around $100,000 and he called for donations to be made to meet this need. With the growing university trying to keep costs down for all students became very important and the way that this was accomplished was by raising the funds necessary to start an endowment.

In 1902 there was still an emphasis on making sure Baylor had an endowment so that it could continue to grow and serve more students. Once again there was emphasis that Baylor needed supplies and more funding to attract better faculty members and there was not enough income from tuition alone to support these goals. In their effort to raise money people spoke in various Baptist churches and ministerial conferences to try and mobilize Baptists to help fund Baylor’s effort at providing a Christian education (The Lariat, 1902).

Providing free tuition to students studying ministry was becoming more than the institution could support and the policy had to be amended in 1903. These students now had to provide documentation of their church membership and proof that they had been ordained, or were serving their church in the ministry. Students who were paying for their tuition or receiving money from the ministerial endowment fund would not be required to do any work but any other students receiving tuition aid would start to be required to work on campus for five hours a week to help offset the cost that the school was incurring. The aid given to children of Baptist ministers was also limited to be for students who were pursuing an education in ministry. All of these students were required to carry a full course load and their scholarships could be revoked if they were skipping class or making poor grades in their classes (The Lariat,1903).

The next time rates were changed at all was in 1913 when it was announced that the university had gone into some debt the previous year because the cost of instruction and the cost of living had increased since 1900. To make up for the approximately $11,500 the school was short the previous year the main rate for the college went up from $60 a year to $75 a year and the rate for the academy went up from $50 a year to $65 a year (The Lariat May 3, 1913). This would include a number of expenses. Before the increase in The Baylor Bulletintuition the students paid $21.65 for academy tuition per quarter as well as 25.00 of college tuition per quarter and it would be an additional $10 for tuition. Anything extra would be room and board or special rates for specific classes in the music and art departments (The Baylor Bulletin 1912, p.51). At the beginning of the 1913 school year tuition and fees were $85.50 without room and board or any additional fees for certain classes (The Baylor Bulletin 1913, p. 64). It seemed like when the trustees realized they needed they needed the extra money they decided to do it fairly and spread the burden evenly so that each fee was increased by the same amount. Had the Board of Trustees foreseen that education would become more expensive as inflation and cost of living rose they could have risen it by smaller increments over the thirteen years that it remained consistent so that it would not be such a burden on the students to have it jump by so much all at once. By having enough money to run the school the Trustees had ensured that, for the time being, they had enough money to keep the school functioning. It does seem as though the students were not necessarily upset, but responded very rationally. An editorial from the May 3, 1913 Lariat stated that:

If the cost of running the government of Texas goes up, taxes go up with it. If the running expenses of a mercantile establishment increase, prices on merchandise are likewise increased, or the house goes out of business. If the price of flour, bacon, and potatoes advances, the boarding mistress must raise the price of board quit keeping boarders. If the expenses of Baylor increase under wise administration, tuition charges must be increased.

This is a rational approach to take concerning the situation, although it does demonstrate that the students are not concerned about the increase as long as they feel like the administration is being rational and they are getting what they are paying for.

Work Study Jobs

            In order to fund their higher education students during any time will find creative means of funding. Between 1900 and 1920 a great deal of students were utilizing on-campus and off-campus jobs. Baylor was committed to having students work on-campus so that they could reach students who truly wanted to pursue their education

Many students, around three hundred in 1917 which was one third of the nine hundred total students, were working on campus as a way to pay for their education. The university provided a number of opportunities to give students full or partial tuition credit by working in different ways around campus. Around twenty five students worked for different departments on campus. Most of them had jobs like grading papers and working in labs. Some students taught classes and earned money depending on how many classes they taught. The library also employed twenty six students, these student workers were either the children of ministers or students who held specific scholarships. They would work five hours per week with the librarian to earn their full tuition. The head of the University property department had twenty four student workers in 1917 that did a variety of tasks. Some of them would work on the green spaces on campus and help care for the lawns and athletic fields. Other workers were janitors or carpenters and the boys who worked these jobs would work as many hours a week as they could to try and cover as many of their expenses as possible. In addition student printers and book store sales associates worked as many hours as they could to earn tuition credits.

A number of students worked in the residence halls on campus to earn their room and board. There were various jobs like assisting the hall supervisor, chaperones, office clerks, and working in the dining hall waiting on tables. There were music monitors in Burleson and Brooks who earned full tuition for their work. There was a girls’ home owned by Baylor and run by a house mother where all sixty two of the women living there pitched in to work around an hour a week as housekeepers to reduce their room and board fees by half so that the main thing they were paying for was maintenance on the house because that was something the women were not capable of taking care of themselves. Eleven men worked in the cafeteria to earn all of their meals for free. They performed many tasks including serving, washing dishes, and signing in students who came to eat. After working for three hours a day these boys had earned enough to take care of a The Baylor Bulletinsignificant daily expense. These are all of the jobs that were available strictly on campus.

A number of students worked in other areas around Waco to earn money in order to cover their expenses. Students who were studying to be ministers were already earning their full tuition for free, but many of them were also working at local churches. Around sixty eight had full- or part-time jobs with churches that helped them pay for any other expenses they had, as well as gave them viable employment options after they graduated.

There were some students who were very entrepreneurial in order to get the money necessary to cover their school expenses. There were a few men who did laundry for students and people who lived close to campus to earn extra money to help cover their expenses. There were also girls who collected laundry from girls in the residence halls to earn money. Some men got jobs working in tailor shops pressing and delivering suits. Around a dozen men worked delivering newspapers and working in the local newspaper office helping with other tasks. More students worked independently from the university particularly on the weekends in a number of sales jobs in different stores. With all of these students working inside and outside of the Baylor community around three hundred students were earning at least some of the money necessary to help fund their education. the article goes on to say that Baylor students must not be sleeping because between working and studying three majors they stay very busy and, “Truly, it seems that Baylor has few idle minds and is far from a devil’s workshop” (The Lariat, 1917).


Students during this time period obviously saw a need for a good education and there were a number of means that could be utilized to achieve that end. Students who wanted to earn their tuition but did not want to work attempted to earn scholarships to ease the burden of tuition.

There were many scholarships available from the Baylor Alumni Association for students who needed the money to come to school. A Rufus C. Burleson Scholarship was available for a student with a degree, who was pursuing a master’s degree in English and helping teach classes at Baylor to cover the cost of their tuition. This was instituted in 1896 and was still present at least until 1918. The Philomathesian Society created a scholarship in 1897 to give out to a student in the society who was in good academic standing who won an oratory contest. This would cover their full tuition for a year as long as they remained in good standing academically. The Erisophian Society had a similar scholarship for their member who competed in and won their oratory contest. The R.C.B. scholarship and the Calliopian Society scholarship were similar to the previous two and were both awarded beginning in 1904. Waco High School funded a scholarship for their class valedictorian to pay for their college tuition. Baylor also provided scholarships to students from high schools that were the valedictorian but were not given any kind of aid from their high school.

There were many scholarships that became available during this time for students who were studying ministry. The Lula Garrett scholarship was given annually to a student studying ministry as a memorial to their daughter. In addition there were Cowden Endowed Ministerial scholarships that were given out to ministry students who had excellent academic records. The M.H. Wolfe scholarship was another chance for a ministry student to earn money toward their tuition.

A student help fund was created by an alumnus in honor of his mother to help a financially needy student pay for their schooling at Baylor. There were several scholarships available in the field of botany; one was for two students who were chosen by the professor to receive this scholarship in their field. The second scholarship was to a fund set up by Mrs. A.C. Buchanan and was used to help offset the laboratory fees for botany students. The 1914 class scholarship was something that juniors could apply for and the President of the university would choose someone every spring to receive the scholarship the following school year. Students who held certain scholarships could be asked to do an hour of work a day by the University and would have their scholarships taken away if they refused to do the work.  (The Lariat, 1918).The Baylor Bulletin


Throughout the history of higher education the cost has consistently risen and it can be a barrier to participation for many potential students. The cost for students who wanted to attend Baylor University between 1900 and 1920 could have been a big barrier, however many students were able to fund their education through hard work and determination. These students found scholarships and work opportunities that would allow them to pursue a degree. Baylor would help provide as much assistance as they possibly could because they understood that students could not find aid elsewhere before the days of Federal student aid. By helping students continue to gain degrees Baylor ensured that their doors stayed open and the institution could continue to educate young adults.


The Baylor Bulletin. (1912-13). Baylor University v. 16. Texas Collection.

The Baylor Bulletin. (1913-1914). Baylor University v. 17. Texas Collection.

Over 300 Baylor students earn expenses in school. (1917, February 8). The Lariat, p.3. Accessed


General increase in tuition charges: first advance in 13 years. (1913, May 3). The Lariat, p.1.

Accessed through:

An evidence of superiority in denominational colleges. (1918, July 18). The Lariat, p.1.

Accessed through:

President’s report: Baylor University a review of the past conventional year. (1901, November

9). The Lariat, p.1. Accessed through:

Baylor must be endowed. (1902, February 21). The Lariat, p.2. Accessed through:

Beneficiaries. (1903, March 28). The Lariat, p. 3. Accessed through:

Thelin, J.R. (2011).  A history of American higher education (2nd ed.). Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press.

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