Posted by Philip Poole on 2010-02-26

Samford University did “exceptionally well” in attracting National Merit Scholars for the 2009-10 academic year.

Thirteen National Merit finalists enrolled as freshmen at Samford for the fall 2009 semester, outpacing all other Birmingham area universities and comparing very favorably with Samford’s other peer groups, according to R. Phil Kimrey, Samford’s vice president for enrollment management.

Samford now has 36 National Merit Scholars enrolled, including the university’s first-ever National Hispanic Merit Scholar and the second National Achievement Scholar. Eight of the 13 first-year students are enrolled in Samford’s University Fellows, a two-year-old undergraduate honors program.

“We did exceptionally well this year in recruiting, admitting and enrolling some of the top scholars in the U.S.,” Kimrey said. “This affirms our strong national reputation academically and the hard work of our faculty and staff in helping these top students make Samford their college choice. The new University Fellows program also is a major factor in attracting students seeking an academically rigorous education.”

Only about 10 percent of the nation’s four-year institutions enrolled first-year National Merit Scholars in fall 2009, putting Samford in elite company, Kimrey noted.  The National Merit Scholars program began in 1955 to recognize top high school students for their academic achievements.

Samford’s 13 scholars was the largest group among private universities in the state and among four Birmingham-area schools.  Samford was ahead of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, 9; Birmingham-Southern College, 8; and the University of Montevallo, 1.  The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, had 95, Auburn University had 64 and the University of South Alabama had 1. No other Alabama schools were listed.

Among historically Baptist universities, Samford trailed only Baylor University in Waco, Texas, with 69. Nine Baptist schools, all members of the International Association of Baptist Colleges and Universities, were on the National Merit list.

Furman University in Greenville, S.C., with 26, led six Southern Conference member schools that had National Merit Scholars, followed by Davidson College (14) and Samford.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 66th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 104th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,683 students from 47 states and 19 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference, and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.