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University of Iowa recruitment push could cause problems for smaller colleges

BY MICHAEL KADRIE | OCTOBER 20, 2014 5:00 AM

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Increased efforts to increase in-state recruitment at the University of Iowa may have smaller colleges across the state worried about repercussions to their enrollment numbers.

The UI is increasing efforts by hiring additional admissions staff, improving marketing efforts, and increasing both campus visits and visits to Iowa high schools. As of October, UI resident applications for the 2015-16 academic year are up 11.25 percent compared with the same time last year.

Dave McInally, the president of Coe College, said he isn’t certain yet what effect this increased recruitment will be, but he worries it may decrease the number of prospective students.

“The effect on private colleges could be an unintended consequence of these funding changes,” McInally said.

The Cedar Rapids-based college’s student body is 38 percent Iowa residents.

McInally said the student enrollment overlaps considerably with the state Board of Regents’ universities.  He’s concerned with the potential incentives regent universities may offer, including an increased number of scholarships for in-state students.

Helping to drive concerns is the continuing decline in the number of Iowa seniors graduating from high school, said Kirkwood Community College President Mick Starcevich.

Starcevich said the number of graduating seniors has been in decline for the past 13 years. He said the next time the number will increase is with the graduation of this year’s fourth-grade class in eight years.

However, not all non-regent colleges are especially concerned.

Jamie Kelly, digital news director for Cornell College (Mount Vernon) said his college’s officials were “keeping an eye on it” but weren’t seriously worried.

“To be completely honest, we don’t have a ton of students who apply to both the University of Iowa and Cornell,” Kelly said.

Iowa is one of three primary sources of student enrollment for Cornell, contributing 17 percent of its student body.  The remaining students can trace their roots back to all but two of the nation’s 50 states.

Gary Steinke, the president of the Iowa Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, said it makes contacting students deciding about higher education even more important.

He said the association’s 26 member institutions have a student body that is roughly 50 percent Iowa residents.

“It just means we have to push a little harder to make sure they understand what we offer that the University of Iowa doesn’t,” Steinke said.

He said the private-college students benefit from average class sizes between 20 and 25 students and often graduated in four years.

Starcevich said Kirkwood is in the process of increasing its marketing in response to the UI’s increased presence.

“We’re all going to be spending more dollars on fewer students, and does that make sense,” he said. “Definitely not.”

McInally said Coe is also increasing its marketing presence, but its plan just happened to coincide with the regents’ announcement.

“We were glad we had that ready to roll out,” he said.

Some colleges are hoping the Legislature will look at all aspects of the new funding model and the repercussions it could have.

“Hopefully, the Legislature will take a hard look at what the regents are proposing,” Starcevich said.


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