E-town, Southwestern partner to discuss admissions innovations
February 10, 2017   //   By:   //   Campus & Community, Campus and Community

As college-age demographics shift, especially on the East Coast, colleges are facing certain change. Small, private, liberal arts colleges, in particular, are looking at gloomy prospects.

It has come to the attention of college governing bodies that there is a serious need to adapt present mindsets and programs to serve a variety of students that are not presently on admissions radars. These changes in business models must come quickly, and they’ll likely challenge some previously tried-and-true traditions of liberal arts colleges.

Facing this challenge, head-on, Elizabethtown College has struck up a partnership with Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, a school with a similar educational profile but located in another market. “Southwestern has taken some intriguing steps forward,” said Carl Strikwerda, Elizabethtown College president. “The leadership at Elizabethtown would like to learn more about them firsthand and find out what Southwestern’s leaders think about our approach.”

… we’ll innovate more successfully if we learn from each other.”

In the first week of February 2017 executives from E-town traveled to Southwestern to tour the campus, talk with faculty members, administration and students and discuss two pressing questions: “How do the colleges compete and stay innovative as private liberal arts colleges?” and “How do the boards and senior staff members set strategic direction?”

The idea comes from the strength-in-numbers and two-heads-are-better-than-one adages. Two similar organizations can share strengths and weaknesses while planning for the same goal: providing the best education possible to a changing, and increasingly diverse, student body while still remaining financially viable. “Given the fast changing challenges that colleges face, we’ll innovate more successfully if we learn from each other,” said Strikwerda.

In the past, the focus of college admissions, has been on what is presently a shrinking demographic: the white male from a middle- to higher-income family. More likely than not, college students are now from minority groups; many are first-generation college students who, often, need financial assistance; the majority are female.

Non-white Latinos have surpassed African-Americans as the nation’s largest minority; in public grade-school classrooms, the percentage of all minority students combined is larger than the percentage of whites. In several states, more minorities than whites are graduating from high schools.

Unfortunately, private, liberal arts college are often viewed by applicants as elite and not on the wish list of many high school seniors and community college graduates. So, the move, now, in college admissions, is to shift focus from the traditional demographic to a wider population. Understanding that not all types of success can be counted by analytics, there also is a concentration on showing success of students and alumni in alternate ways, no longer counting on graduation rates and employability as a barometer for achievement.

About the Author :

E.A. (Elizabeth) Harvey is the communications manager and news editor at Elizabethtown College. She has worked in the Office of Marketing and Communications since 2008, after more than two decades as a newspaper feature writer. She holds a bachelor's degree in corporate communication from Elizabethtown College.