Baylor University: Access and Enrollment of Foreign Students in the 1940’s

By: Kimo Cummings


The period of 1940-1949 was marked by many events,  the biggest impact globally coming from World War II.  The war was the big event of the decade and showed its impact even on the Baylor Campus. There were many changes on campus as the male population saw a decline during the war, and even more changes as the veterans of the war returned home to continue or start their education. Although the biggest changes involved the male student population, the enrollment and access of foreign students during the decade was also effected. The foreign student population of the 1940s  was not the common practice we see today, but nonetheless sproved a growth period for access of foreign student enrollment and began to indicate how Baylor was being viewed around the world as an attractive institution for higher learning .

Access and Enrollment of the 1940s

ajaxhelperAccess to Baylor for students during the 1940s was open to students from all backgrounds. No racial segregation policies existed nor were students specifically excluded for having different religious views. Both men and women were admitted and had strong numbers  to start off the decade. Enrollment in the year 1941-42 reached an excess of 2,000 students (Baylor University, 1941, p. 2), nine of which were foreign students primarily from countries with no ties to the war. Enrollment at the end of the decade more than doubled to over 4,000 students enrolled at one of the Baylor campuses.

Starting with the academic year of 1942-43, male enrollment numbers saw a large decline (Baylor University, 1943, p.2). The participation of the United States in World War II caused many men to leave school and work in order to fight. Baylor was not immune to this development. Male enrollment numbers took a hit and soon women became the majority on campus. This trend would continue until the end of the war.

Once the war had ended, returning vets soon made up a large portion of the student body. The G.I. Bill was a significant factor in this influx of veterans into higher education. Enrollment began to reflect men as the majority again with a large percentage of those men being veterans. Higher education began to see a boom nationwide as veterans returned and the war was over.
Baylor Campus 1940s
Courtesy of the Texas Collection

Foreign Student Population to Begin the Decade

Today we see a very large number of foreign students attending college in the United States. This was not always the case. In the 1940s, the enrollment of foreign students was far lower than today’s. Of note in this era is that students from Hawaii and Alaska were considered foreign students, as they were not yet states.  Another interesting note is that for the first few years of the decade the District of Columbia was grouped in with the other foreign nations. By 1943, this had changed and the District of Columbia was recognized as being part of the domestic makeup of the university  (Baylor University, 1943, p. 4). The rest of the students who made up the foreign student population were a mix of tradition foreign students and students whose parents were missionaries, leading them to grow up in another country.

Foreign student enrollment prior to World War II (1941-42) topped off at nine students attending Baylor (Baylor University, 1941, p. 2). There were several students from the District of Columbia listed as foreign, but were not included in this final number due to the change midway through the decade of including them with resident students. This total of nine students represented a very small percentage of the student population of over 2,000 students. The countries represented included Argentina, Brazil, Hawaii, Mexico, Puerto Rico, India, and Great Britain. These students were primarily from countries who were not involved in the current war with the exception of the one student enrolled from Great Britain. For comparison, this total of foreign students was equal to the number of students from the state of California for the academic year.

Foreign Student Access During World War II

The United States formally entered World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Registrar reports for this 1941-1942 academic year were already published. This is important since the war started several months after the fall semester began, raising the question  of how many of these foreign students would have attended had the United States joined the war even six months sooner. However, the following and subsequent years showed the effect that the war had in relation to foreign students and their access/enrollment.

The academic year of 1942-43 saw the number of foreign students hold steady at nine enrollees from eight different countries (Baylor University, 1942, p. 3). No change occurred between the first three years of the decade: data shows the exact same number of students from each country between 1941-42, 1942-43 and 1943-44. A statistical anomaly appears as the number of students matches these three years, but these were not all the same students as the year before. This adds to the fact that most students that enrolled were not from countries that had been affected by the war, except for the single student from Great Britain . The numbers would hold steady over the next year as well, as foreign student enrollment lost only one student.

The final year of the war of 1944-1945 finally showed  a drop in enrollment. Foreign student enrollment topped out at five students for the year representing only three countries: Argentina, Brazil, and Hawaii (Baylor University, 1944, p. 4). Although this number holds true for students not enrolling from countries involved with the war, it also showed a lack of foreign student interest in general. No  major events occurred that would affect countries in Latin and South America, which had been shown to be a source of students in the past. This lack of foreign students can possibly be accounted for by lack of missionaries’ children attending college or economic issues affecting other countries.

Post World War II Foreign Student Access

The end of World War II came almost at the midpoint of the decade on September 2, 1945. This end would shift how foreign countries around the world would interact with each other. America would come out of the war as a “super power”, that is being seen as one of the most powerful countries as well as the epitome of freedom. With this newfound strength, American high education, and specifically Baylor, would see a shift in how students around the world would view it.

The end of the war came at the very beginning of the 1945-46 academic year. The war again apparently negatively affected foreign student enrollment for the year, as only four foreign students were enrolled representing three countries (Baylor University, 1945, p. 4). The countries represented were again not involved in the war, with the exception of one student from Hawaii. It is of note though that aside from the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii was mostly seen as one of the westernmost defenses against Japan. This drop in foreign enrollment also coincided with a rise in total enrollment, with students in this academic year topping out at over 3,000 students (Baylor University, 1945, p. 9), showing a large growth over the first part of the decade.

The 1946-47 academic year foreign student enrollment began to turn around. Enrollment this year went rose to eleven students representing the nations of Alaska, Argentina, the Canal Zone, Central America, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Syria (Baylor University, 1945, p. 4). The notable student in this group is the student from Syria. Syria, while not an independent nation until 1945, was involved in the war. The most famous example of this involvement was the Syria-Lebanon campaign in which the allies invaded  the then Vichy French Syria in an effort to contain Nazi Germany from advancing further towards Egypt, an area under Allied control. This one student represents an area of the world new to Baylor.

The biggest change in the access of foreign students occurred in the academic year of 1947-48. In this year, foreign enrollment more than doubled to a total of twenty-six students (Baylor University, 1947, p. 6). The countries that had previously made up the foreign population at Baylor were soon joined by several others. For the first time in the decade, students from Canada, China, France, and Palestine attended the university. Although Canada was not necessarily involved in the war, these other three countries were, especially France. This group of students shows the growth and progress that Baylor was making in bringing in foreign students from new countries as well as the changing geo-political climate. Today, we see these countries as a frequent contributor of foreign students, but seventy years ago these countries did not produce the number of students that we are accustomed to.

The last two years of the decade continued  to show a large growth from the beginning of the decade. The 1948-49 academic year contained a decade high forty-six foreign students enrolled at Baylor (Baylor University, 1948, p. 8). This year included a student from Korea, fifteen students from Hawaii, nine students from China, and three students from Palestine. At this point in time Hawaii, while having a big impact on the United States and essentially having the look and feel of another state, was still ten years from statehood and geographically was still far away from Baylor. The diversity of the foreign student population continued to grow as more and more countries around the world continued to gain access to higher education in America. The 1949-1950 year also showed the diversity of foreign student coming to campus, with forty international students representing sixteen countries (Baylor University, 1949, p. 8). The final academic year of the decade saw the enrollment of students from Germany and Cuba. At the beginning of this decade, this would have been unthinkable given the relations of the United States with the Axis powers and the general feeling of Americans towards communism.

Effects of Foreign Student Access on Campus

Foreign student culture at Baylor began to flourish during the 1940s. The enrollment numbers alone show the growth of the foreign student population. This enrollment expansion combined with the big events of a World War showed just how big of an influence foreign students could have on Baylor and why they would be a group vital to Baylor’s long term future.

The beginning of the decade marked the emergence of the International Club. The club was founded for and by students with international backgrounds. The very first year of the club was the academic year of 1939-1940.  The Club’s inaugural membership came in at twenty-one students. Not all of these students were considered foreign students, as members could also be eligible by living in a foreign country for a term of four consecutive years at some point of their life. During 1941, the club also had its first member initiation, which was a big enough deal to be covered in the Lariat. The club appears to have faded out throughout the decade as foreign students became scarcer. However the April 13, 1949 edition of the Lariat (1949) LariatPicOpinioncovered the revival of a new and improved version of the international club. This new version of the club now included foreign students, students preparing to work in a foreign country, professors who had taught in a foreign country and students who were interested in foreign countries. This club would not have been possible if not for the improved access to foreign students worldwide and the growing access to Baylor University.

Foreign student access was recognized by the University for its merit and was soon predicted to grow during the war. Upon the Allied victory of World War II, America soon became the principal nation for students from around the world for higher education. America could offer students around the world a unique experience and one that was intellectually equal to the universities of Europe. The Parade of Opinion article in the May 9, 1944 Baylor Lariat (Lariat, 1944, p. 2) alludes to this fact and insists that the foreign student population would continue to grow after the war. Harry Carman, Dean of Columbia College at the time said “There is no question that for a generation or more, perhaps longer, the United States will be the great intellectual center of the world” (Lariat, 1944, p. 2). The article proved to be an accurate prediction of foreign student access as enrollment of foreign students more than quadrupled from the beginning to the end of the decade.

Lariat Article 1944

Photo Courtesy of The Texas Collection

With the conclusion of the war and more foreign students enrolling, other schools within Baylor began to see the impact of foreign students besides at the undergraduate level. The Law School is one such school that attracted foreign students. The story of Antonio Rios helps to illustrate this point (Lariat, 1947, p. 2). Antonio was a graduate of the University of Puerto Rico Law school who also attended Yale University. While he was in the service during the war, he began to hear about classes offered here at the Law School at Baylor and immediately applied. Along with Antonio Rios’ application, students also applied from countries such as Persia and Jerusalem with the hope of attending Law School at Baylor (1947).

Lariat Article 1947
Photo Courtesy of The Texas Collection

The administration also showed to be in favor of admitting foreign students into the university. The increasing number of foreign students enrolling was viewed as a positive by the university. Several Baylor University press releases highlighted the access of foreign enrollment. A report from October 25, 1940 reveals the number of foreign students at Baylor and the countries that they represent, seven nations in that year to be specific. Another release from June 24, 1949 highlights foreign students as part of the broad foundation of Baylor, also adding that this base represents great security in the future. Dr. W.R. White stated that “Baylor draws its students from 43 states, and 11 foreign countries, with only 20 per cent coming from McLennan County now. This broad base indicates a substantial measure of future security for Baylor” (Press Release, 1949).  This would seem to suggest that maintaining access for foreign students was a priority for Baylor in keeping their student body ever growing. Yet another piece showing support from the university is a Lariat article from 1948.  This article notes that Baylor saw its total enrollment increase to 5,054 students in 1948 while most Texas Universities saw decreases in enrollment. The article highlights the rise in male demographics as well as highlighting the attendance of foreign students. Of these figures, President W.R. White said “Our dream of world service through Baylor University is not only a possibility but is becoming an actuality” (Lariat, 1948, p.1). This statement reinforces how the university viewed itself globally and that foreign students were a highlight for the university in achieving its’ goals.

There is also evidence of at least one scholarship at the time established exclusively for directly towards foreign students. The Texas Woman’s Missionary Union established a scholarship in 1942 for the aid of foreign students (Davis 1942). The Union wrote a letter directly to Baylor President Pat Neff requesting him to apply $100 worth of scholarship to each of three international students. While more on this scholarship cannot be found since this original letter, it does highlight that at least several people outside of the institution were interested in seeing foreign students get their education at Baylor .


Baylor supported access for foreign students throughout the 1940s. Although the war had an impact on not only how many foreign students were able to attend, but also on where those students came from, they nonetheless still came once afforded the opportunity. For many countries the end of the war opened up much more freedom both politically and financially than they had all decade, allowing them the chance to attend an American university. The University itself showed to be supportive of a “worldwide mission” which also helped to spread the Baylor brand  globally. Baylor saw its foreign enrollment flourish in the closing years of the decade to a proportion more towards what we would expect to see today. Within a few years of the war ending, the foreign population at Baylor had more than quadrupled what it was at the beginning of the decade, highlighting the changing of the times worldwide and the views others had on higher education in America (see Appendix A and Appendix B). The other supporting evidence shows that foreign students were able to come to Baylor and find others in their same position of being from another country and culture. They were viewed as an emerging part of the student population and helped to serve as a broad base heading towards the future. Baylor’s position  in the global world is highlighted by these foreign enrollees and their desire to study at Baylor in a time where international relations were unsteady around the world. The education, religion, and reputation of Baylor attracted students worldwide and established itself as desirable place of study globally .




(1947, September 24). Law School Attracts Foreign Students. Baylor University Lariat. Retrieved from

(1949, April 13). Foreign Students Plan New Club Construction. Baylor University Lariat. Retrieved from

Associated Collegiate Press (1944, May 9). Intellectual Center of the World – Parade of Opinion. Baylor University Lariat. Retrieved from

Baylor University. (1941) . Registrar’s Report Long Session 1941-1942. Waco, TX: Registrar

Baylor University. (1942) . Registrar’s Report Long Session 1942-1943. Waco, TX: Registrar

Baylor University. (1943) . Registrar’s Report Long Session 1943-1944. Waco, TX: Registrar

Baylor University. (1944) . Registrar’s Report Long Session 1944-1945. Waco, TX: Registrar

Baylor University. (1945) . Registrar’s Report Long Session 1945-1946. Waco, TX: Registrar

Baylor University. (1946) . Registrar’s Report Long Session 1946-1947. Waco, TX: Registrar

Baylor University. (1947) . Registrar’s Report Long Session 1947-1948. Waco, TX: Registrar

Baylor University. (1948) . Registrar’s Report Long Session 1948-1949. Waco, TX: Registrar

Baylor University. (1949) . Registrar’s Report Long Session 1949-1950. Waco, TX: Registrar

Baylor University News Service (1940, October 25). Press Release. Retrieved from

Davis, Alicia (1942, September 11) Personal Communication to Pat Neff. Letter. TexasCollection at Baylor University

Eskin, Ed (1948, October 1) Baylor Shows Enrollment Increase to 5,054: Most Texas Univerisities Record Decrease from Last Year Totals. Baylor University Lariat. Retrieved From

News Bureau (1949, June 24). Press Release. Retrieved from

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