Big Ten move makes UNL recruiters' jobs easier
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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Often in the fall, Amber Hunter travels to Chicago to meet with local guidance counselors to raise interest in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Typically, about 20 Chicago guidance counselors respond to her lunch invitation. This year, 75 arrived.
"I was very excited and surprised," said Hunter, associate dean of admissions at UNL. "It's just very different now that we're in the Big Ten."
More than three months before UNL moves to the Big Ten Conference, the shift already is making the university's recruiters' jobs easier. The move to the Big Ten - long considered the strongest athletic conference in terms of academics - has piqued student interest across the country, said Alan Cerveny, dean of admissions at UNL.
That's especially true in states where Big Ten schools traditionally have dominated student recruitment, he said. Because many Big Ten universities have capped their enrollment or implemented stringent admission requirements, UNL has an opportunity to recruit students unable to gain admission to those universities, Cerveny said.
"I do believe we've got a golden opportunity to attract new students from across the nation with our new conference affiliation," he said.
The university already has seen evidence of reinvigorated recruitment, with 29 percent of the freshmen accepted for fall 2011 enrollment coming from out of state, the largest percentage of out-of-state students ever admitted, Cerveny said.
He said the Big Ten shift comes at an important time for UNL because the pool of seniors graduating from Nebraska high schools has decreased each year since 2002. This May and June, 400 fewer seniors will graduate than a year ago, he said. And the number of graduating seniors is expected to continue to decrease until 2014, Cerveny said.
As a result, UNL and other Nebraska colleges are competing for an ever-shrinking number of students, and the university has been forced to seek students in other states, he said.
For the past decade, the university has focused much of its recruitment efforts on metropolitan areas such as Kansas City, Mo.; Denver; Dallas; and Houston. As a result, the university has seen the number of students from metro areas grow from just a handful a decade ago to 40 to 60 each year, Cerveny said.
However, with the Big Ten move, UNL plans to shift its focus away from Texas and toward cities in traditional Big Ten territory, such as Minneapolis and Chicago, he said.
"Being a member of the Big Ten now punches our ticket," he said. "It increases the level of interest that we would not have seen without that."
He said the university also has seen increased numbers of out-of-state students visiting UNL. That is a marked difference from before the Big Ten shift was announced in June, Cerveny said.
Before that announcement, some high schools wouldn't respond to UNL recruiters' request to visit their schools, he said.
"We're seeing schools that just couldn't fit us on the schedule are now more than willing to meet with our recruiters," he said.
When UNL recruiters did make it in the door, out-of-state students often asked them: Are you in the Big Ten?
"We would say, 'No, but we're like the Big Ten,'" Cerveny said.
To Hunter, the shift to the Big Ten gives UNL recruiters an opportunity to showcase the university's many strengths that were there even before the move was announced.
She said the university's engineering, business and journalism colleges have been especially popular among students who have been unable to gain admission into similar programs at other Big Ten schools.
"People are seeing our campus as another opportunity to get the Big Ten experience outside of their current market," she said.
She recounted the story of a Minnesota teenager who had been ridiculed by his friends for picking UNL instead of a Big Ten school. After UNL announced it would be joining the Big Ten, the teenager's friends stopped making fun of him.
"'Even the Big Ten chose the University of Nebraska,' is what he told me," Hunter said. "The Big Ten is kind of like the Oscars of academics."
Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com