Today we visited Bellarmine (pronounced Bellarmun) University. As I noted yesterday, they have a beautiful small campus, about 5 minutes from our hotel. It was built in the 1950s, According to their website, the campus is all of 144 acres and 24 buildings, 138 full-time faculty, and a total enrollment of 3,132. You can see pictures of their beautiful campus here.
I knew nothing about this school going in, and I was impressed. They are in the top 100 of private universities in the US (#12 regional university per US News and World Reports). They are a dry campus. They have no real fraternities and sororities (there are two greek honor societies that do service). They are a non-smoking campus. They are strong academically. They are affordable: about $39K/year before financial aid ($29.1K tuition, $1.4K fees, $8.8K room and board), and they give a lot of merit-based aid. There is very little crime in the area. There are strong relationships between the faculty and the students. Although students are required to live on campus the first year or two, they are permitted to have cars on campus. We visited a dorm room, and it was very nice and spacious.
Although they are obstensibly a Catholic university, they no longer have any association with the church. There is no required church attendance, although there are two general theology courses required (such as comparative religions). They are only about 50% catholic.
They have an early schedule, starting in August and ending in May before the Kentucky Derby.
We met with one of the history professors later in the day. They have a small history/poli-sci department; perhaps 10-12 faculty. They seem enthusiastic about what they teach. There are requirements to do history research and internship, including long papers.
The overall 4-year retention rate is 67%.
If there is one drawback to this school, it is diversity (although not for their lack of trying). Only 10% are students of color, and 2% are international. For first-time freshman, those numbers of 12% students of color, 1% international. Most of the students are from the midwest (KY, IN, OH, IL, MO). 2% are international, and 6% are from other states. Supposedly, a lot are from private schools. This would be culture shock for Erin.
What are my thoughts on this? In some ways, this would be the right place. I think Erin would excel in the smaller environment; she wouldn’t become the lost cog in the sea of students. She could become active in a large variety of groups, and work in their black box theatre. She also wouldn’t be overrun by the party and drinking atmosphere at Tulane or Emory (or many other schools). She wouldn’t have to deal with the cigarette smoke that is so prevalent in the south. They do appear to be academically challenging, although that’s hard to determine beforehand. They are also within a few hours drives of relatives and friends in either Nashville or St. Louis. On the negative side, they are lesser-known (that doesn’t make them bad), a bit less diverse than we might like, and I’m not super happy with their 4-year retention rate (67%) or their 4-year graduation rate (52%-medium) [6-year graduation rate (65%)]. Social sciences is also a very small percentage of their degrees, about 5%. It also seems not to get good reviews from students (whereas Tulane gets positive reviews, as does Emory, Washington University, Reed, Univ of Portland, UCSB, and Occidental, but not Lewis & Clark).