05 - David R. Feeney Mercer Business Magazine Aug2012

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  1. 6 MERCER BUSINESS / AUGUST 2012 COVER STORY HIGHER EDUCATION BY: SCOTT CULLEN Finding the Right Fit [ Recruitment efforts tend to focus on juniors and seniors although…
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  • 1. 6 MERCER BUSINESS / AUGUST 2012 COVER STORY HIGHER EDUCATION BY: SCOTT CULLEN Finding the Right Fit [ Recruitment efforts tend to focus on juniors and seniors although they may run across the occasional freshman or sophomore visiting the campus that turns out to be a good fit. ] But what makes those students a good fit for these schools? What do colleges look for when recruiting students, what packages and perks do they offer to get the best students, and at what age do they start looking at high school students? The College of New Jersey The incoming class of freshman at The College of New Jersey totals 1,375. That group was selected from some 10,000 applicants. Matt Middleton, associate director of admissions at TCNJ, says the college tends to focus on three areas in its recruitment efforts. “We’re looking for students from multicultural backgrounds and students from outside the state—about 93 percent of our students are from New Jersey so we’re always trying to be more geographically diverse.” Recruitment efforts also depend on what programs the college is looking to increase enrollment. “We have some programs we’re trying to grow, particularly the arts and music so we make an effort to recruit students interested in those areas,” adds Middleton. “Every year we look at our campus and where we can do better in terms of our population.” This past year TCNJ was concerned about their ability to attract education majors and whether or not students were scared off by the fact that teaching positions are far and few between. “We were more cognizant of that in the beginning of the recruitment year, although that didn’t turn out to be an issue,” says Middleton. As most colleges do, TCNJ purchases the names of students (about 30,000-40,000 names a year) who have taken their college boards from ETS. These students usually fit some of the criteria noted above as well as academic criteria. “This is a competitive school so we’re looking for students with strong GPAs, who did well in their PSAT’s, and students we think would be successful academically,” notes Middleton. Recruitment efforts usually begin in the spring of a student’s junior year of high school. Those students often come from the aforementioned lists. Occasionally the stray freshman or sophomore starting their college search contacts the school. Junior Visit Days expose prospective students to TCNJ and educate them on how the college admissions process works. “We talk about the application process, financial aid; ultimately it has a TCNJ spin but it’s more focused on how to get families started on the process,” says Middleton. “Over the summer and beginning of all is on the way and with it a new school year as local colleges and universities open their doors to a new class of freshman. Those new students will be embarking on a four-year journey that will hopefully meet their expectations as well as the expectations of the schools that either recruited them or selected them from a trove of applicants.F Anthony Uva Dr. David Feeney How Local Colleges
  • 2. AUGUST 2012 / MERCER BUSINESS 7www.mercerbusiness.com senior year is when we visit high schools, meet with school counselors, meet with students, and talk about the school.” Middleton spends a lot of time reviewing transcripts and the classes the prospective students are taking. The focus is mostly on their junior year along with the courses they’re taking as a senior. “Colleges care about that senior year and if the student is continuing to challenge themselves,” says Middleton. He’ll also look at the student’s first marking period grades in their senior year. “If they’re lousy that can keep a student from getting in. We look at the whole picture and I want to see trends and improvement as opposed to going in the other direction. Ultimately it’s how they’ve done over the four years of high school.” Since TCNJ is a public school the financial perks are pretty straightforward. There’s a scholarship program based on two criteria—high school class rank and the student’s best standardized test score. “We have an internal grid that looks at those two criteria and if you have a certain class rank or test score you get X number of dollars,” explains Middleton. “That’s prettymuchallweofferintermsoffinancialincentives.” There’s also needs-based financial aid, but since TCNJ is a public school that’s pretty much set by the govern- ment/state. “We can’t negotiate financial aid packages like a Rider who can offer students whatever they want,” notes Middleton. “We have to be up front with students from the beginning. We have merit scholarships, needs-based aid based on the family’s income but what you’re getting is what we’re offering. That’s hard for families because they think it’s like a car purchase and they can keep going back and forth and it’s ‘this other school offered me this and this other school offered me that.’ I always say to families you need to remember it’s not just the final cost, it’s what value are you getting for that cost? There are certainly schools that are less expensive than us but they generally have much larger class sizes and more commuter students and a different feel to it in terms of the experience.” Rider University Rider University received more than 7,500 applications for this year’s freshman class, which will be narrowed down to a total of about 900. Some of those will have been recruited directly by the college. What Rider looks for is not all that big of a surprise, the courses a student has taken through their junior year and into their senior year and how well they performed in those classes. “Students understand it’s important to per- form in the classroom and do well on a day-to-day basis but they don’t always understand the magnitude of it, espe- cially on a continuum making sure they maintain the aca- demic rigor into their senior year,” says Susan Christian, dean of enrollment at Rider. “Some students at the end of their senior year feel ‘I already have my X-number of units I don’t need to take as much, I won’t take as heavy a load in my senior year.’ That’s not a good thing.” Recruitment efforts tend to focus on juniors and seniors although they may run across the occasional freshman or sophomore visiting the campus that turns out to be a good fit. “Many times at the prospect level we don’t have academic information on students so in terms of reaching out to them when we recruit, we are recruiting in areas where we typically draw or want to see improvement in that area—recruiting geographically in areas where we haven’t had that many students and where we know there’s potential,” explains Christian. She’s been at Rider for 20 years and adds that the college has long had an aggressive recruitment plan in terms of increasing diversity on campus. “That’s something that has been a priority and we’ve done an excellent job of that,” states Christian. “Around 25 percent of our entering class will be a diverse group, ethnically, culturally, geographically, and we’ve expanded our outreach geographically and now have a recruiter as far away as California.” What can prospects expect from Rider? “Affordability today and cost is a big issue for most families and we Recruit Students
  • 3. try to make Rider affordable for as many families as possible,” responds Christian. “In doing that we offer needs-based aid and a generous merit scholarship program so stu- dents based on their academic crite- ria could qualify for scholarships up to $21,000. That’s how we are reach- ing out and trying to attract the stu- dents that we really want.” Strayer University It’s a different story at Strayer University, with campuses throughout the U.S., including Lawrenceville. They don’t do recruiting because most students are adults with an average age of 35. A large percentage of students are women. Dr. David Feeney, dean of Strayer’s Lawrenceville campus explains what the average Strayer student is looking for in their college experience and the expectations Strayer has for them. “They’re just like you and me. They’ve been in the workforce for several years, want that next level of management, want that new career, want that better job, and to a large extent they’ve done their homework. They want to know about class size, about student support systems, and convenience features that Strayer offers, not just in the classes but on the campus as well.” Undergraduate business programs are always popular at Strayer and of late so is the criminal justice pro- gram. No matter what the program, older students returning to school face some challenges and that’s where Strayer staff and faculty can help. The biggest challenge, says Feeney, is having an accurate percep- tion of the time investment of going to school and doing the work. “This is a significant investment no doubt about it,” he says. “What we try to telegraph to the students during the admissions process, in the orientation, and down the line through their pro- gram is accurately gauging the week and amount of time. Many of these students are adjusting their schedules and getting back into the rhythm of a rigorous college program. Some have perceived barriers and we try to demystify topics for adult learners who are getting back to that process for the first time in many decades or if it’s their first time through.” What are some of the things adult students should be thinking about before they start their education at Strayer to make it the most rewarding? “It starts with clear goals and clear vision on the student’s part and we work backwards from the horizon point of graduation to emphasize realistically the time commitment, give them a strong support network on campus,” responds Feeney. “They commit to a program and to a large extent we commit to them with a lot of built in accountability and other processes each quarter that campus leadership, staff and faculty do in order to have the expectations on us and the expectations on them.” It’s also important that family members acknowledge the challenge and lend their support, recognizing this is an important endeavor and that the student needs some time to do their assignments and keep up with the work. If there’s any one quality Strayer students have Feeney says it’s that they’re driven. “They have a purpose and goal in life and often it’s linked to their careers. They want a rigorous academic program they can be proud of and associated with success.” While students aren’t recruited at Strayer like they are at traditional college campuses, it doesn’t matter because what they’ll find there is a nurturing atmosphere. “There’s the baked in default process Strayer requires of faculty and staff and cam- pus leadership,” says Feeney refer- ring to new student orientations that are available each quarter on campus and flexibly online, and mandatory first quarter advising for the critical first and second quarters. “Sometimes that’s make or break for a new student,” notes Feeney. “Tutoring is baked into our campus classes and faculty is ready to work with any student. Students have come to rely on that.” Dean Feeney and Strayer’s director make alliances with community and national partners such as Home Depot and Verizon, visit businesses, and attend other events in the com- munity. Referrals are another way the word gets passed along to prospective students. It’s not unusual for students to refer family members. “Very often a campus like ours is a family affair,” states Feeney. For colleges that need extra help in their recruiting efforts, particularly when it comes to rounding out their athletic programs with student ath- letes, college recruiting services such as S/B Athletic Resource fills the void. S/B Athletic Resource focuses on 26 different varsity sports, including less prominent ones such as golf, tennis, and cheerleading. What they’re look- ing for are students who are at least an average athlete or an average stu- dent. They have to be playing a varsi- ty sport and have earned some sort of accolade in that. “Maybe they’re honorable men- tion, all league or been playing with the varsity for the two years or they’ve been playing on their club team or are a captain or travel a lot with a club team,” says Anthony Uva, a recruiter with S/B Athletic Resource. “They don’t have to be above aver- age—and not many kids are above average. Less than 1 percent of the FINDING THE RIGHT FIT 8 MERCER BUSINESS / AUGUST 2012 3525 & 3535 Quakerbridge Road, Hamilton, NJ Month-to-month leases available for spaces below 1,900 sq. ft. www.ibisplaza.com (609) 588-6900 Move-in Ready Office Suites
  • 4. students out there are students that are going to end up playing in the NBA, major league baseball, NFL or something like that. We’re looking at the next tier, the other 99 percent.” Many colleges use S/B Athletic Resource as a recruiting tool and the challenge for Uva is sending them quality student athletes so they’ll keep using the service. “We match up the kids based on their academics as well as athletics,” says Uva. “A lot of college coaches call us and tell us what they’re look- ing for that particular year and we send out the kids based on the requirements they’re looking for.” What colleges are looking for varies from year to year and often each coach is looking to fill specific needs on a team or in a given sport. “They like working with third-party compa- nies like ours because they don’t have to beat around the bush,” says Uva. “They can tell us straight out if the student is a good fit whereas if a par- ent calls, it’s harder for them to say that. Because we’re dealing with [the colleges] on a daily basis they can be more up front with us about the types of kids they’re looking for.” Unlike the colleges, third-party recruiting services can’t make any promises about grants or scholar- ships. “The only ones that can do that is the colleges themselves,” states Uva. “We’re like a headhunter for a job, we get the name out there, we get in front of them, then it’s up to the student and school. Because we pick good quality kids we have a good ratio of them getting money at the college level.” A/B Athletic Resource tends to start working with students while their sophomores and juniors. “That’s because college coaches can see how they’re progressing, what’s going on, and how they’re doing in school and in their sports,” says Uva. Whether they’re students fresh out of high school or adults going back to school after being in the work- force for a number of years, this is a time where everyone has an oppor- tunity for a new start when colleges open their doors in the fall and dis- cover whether the new recruits are going to fulfill their dreams and meet the college’s expectations. n AUGUST 2012 / MERCER BUSINESS 9 FINDING THE RIGHT FIT www.mercerbusiness.com
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