Special Advertising Section
Attending college close to home makes good sense for many
A survey helps River Forest-based Concordia University Chicago assess why the school gets the nod from incoming students. The information collected has revealed three main factors: reputation of academic programs, especially education and business; affordability, financial assistance offered; and location, including its close proximity to Chicago, says Evelyn Burdick, vice president for enrollment and marketing at Concordia.
"The one additional factor cited by local students who intend to commute is the close proximity to home," says Burdick.
Concordia's success in encouraging students to enroll has attracted national attention. In July, Concordia University Chicago was one of only three universities across the nation honored with a 2009 Marketing and Recruitment Excellence Award from Noel Levitz, a national higher education consulting firm for student marketing, recruitment and retention practice and research.
This highly competitive award recognizes Concordia for marketing and recruitment best-practices based on several factors, says Burdick. "Among the best-practice technologies we use to benefit prospective students and their families is the new highly successful and popular Web portal tailored just for them," she says.
Launched in March, the portal - Connect.CUChicago.edu - is a special Web site available 24/7 to all new students and their parents to access their latest admissions information, schedule visits to campus, choose housing options, accept financial aid packages, register for orientation, as well as learn about college success tips, counseling services, student organizations and more.
This effort has paid off for Concordia. "We are set to enroll the largest incoming freshman class in the 145-year history of the university," says Burdick. "More than 350 new freshmen - an unprecedented 40 percent increase over the previous year." Students from Illinois make up 65 percent of the incoming students, with 57 percent of those coming from a distance of 50 miles or less.
Building the foundation
Aurora University has seen an up-tick of 8 percent in its in-state student population for incoming freshmen, says Donna DeSpain, vice president for enrollment at Aurora University. The number of incoming freshmen from Illinois is 374, with 157 of them traveling from a distance of 50 miles or less.
"The transfer student population has also shown an increase with some local students returning home from out-of-state schools to attend Aurora," says DeSpain. "We believe the trend is due to the uncertain economic times and an increased desire to stay closer to home."
Aurora relies on word-of-mouth to spread awareness of its strong reputation, in addition to its presence and active involvement in the local community, says DeSpain.
Passing the word are Aurora students who go into the community as part of their studies. "Many of our students work for local schools in the afternoon tutoring programs," says DeSpain. "Our nursing students regularly work at community health events doing blood pressure checks and other health assessments. We have social work interns in many social service agencies and student teachers in various school settings."
In addition, Aurora University is also present in the community at events such as Fiesta de Luces, Aurora Chamber EXPO, City of Aurora Benefits Fair, and many other school and community gatherings, says DeSpain.
Helping to attract students and their parents, as well as increase retention, is the school's First-Year Program. It is designed to ease the transition from high school to college and help students succeed in and out of the classroom. The program includes advising sessions, topical seminars, mentoring programs and social activities. It has been recognized nationally as a model program and was recently selected for a national project called "Foundations of Excellence in the First College Year."
While a private school education is prized more for quality than affordability, both Concordia and Aurora do recognize the struggles some families face.
"Overall, our tuition, room and board increased by less than 5 percent and we raised the threshold and maximum of our merit scholarships as well as the percentage of financial need we would meet for deserving students," says Burdick. "We continue to offer some level of institutional financial assistance to 100 percent of all Concordia undergraduate students."
The school also "aggressively emphasizes values and outcomes of the Concordia Chicago experience to help families understand the value of their investment in their child's education," she adds.