May 10, 2016 | By Chuck Carlson
It sits there dominating Lake Michigan—a three-hour drive but a world away from Albion College—with its nearly three million residents downtown and another seven million in the sprawling suburbs that encompass parts of three states.
Chicago is the third-largest city in the United States, and if it is not necessarily an untapped source of college-eligible students, it certainly has enough potential candidates to go around.
For years, Albion College would take what it could get from Chicago, which often wasn't much. But a new, assertive initiative by Albion's Office of Admission is looking to change that.
"There are a lot of strong students in the [Chicago] area and dozens of very good high schools and we're not getting our share," said Steve Klein, Albion's vice president for enrollment. "We will be much more competitive. I expect us to get a much larger share."
That starts now, said Klein, who joined Albion last July from Wabash College and has wasted little time in making Albion a player in the Midwest's biggest city.
"There are over 100 colleges represented in the Chicago area," Klein said. "We can now compete on a level playing field."
Already, the numbers are changing. Last year, Klein said, Albion enrolled 30 students from Chicagoland (16 from the city itself, eight from the Illinois suburbs and eight more from Northwest Indiana). This fall, Albion will welcome at least 52 students from the region (42 from Chicago, eight from the Illinois suburbs and two from Northwest Indiana).
As for the future? That's where Sarah Goldman comes in. She will spearhead Albion's regional recruiting representation in Chicago, joining 73 other colleges and universities from the U.S. and Canada and 115 individual representatives that make up a group known as the Chicago Area Regional Representatives.
Goldman, who has spent the past six years as a regional counselor first for Cornell College in Iowa and then Knox College in Illinois, was hired in late April to use her knowledge of the area to spread the word about Albion to the Chicago suburbs.
"I think Albion is in a really special place right now," Goldman said. "The college does an incredible job of celebrating what a liberal arts education can do in a rapidly changing economy. A lot of liberal arts colleges are running away from liberal arts, but Albion is saying no."
Goldman, who officially starts May 16, is already established in the area, living in the northern suburb of Palatine. And Klein said Albion was lucky to get her.
"She has experience and success doing what we need to do," he said. "She is a formidable competitor."
With Goldman, and the possibility of a second full-time regional rep in the area, Klein hopes to significantly increase the number of Chicagoland students who will attend, or at least seriously consider Albion College.
Goldman faces a challenge of her own given the Chicago suburbs stretch from southern Wisconsin to northwest Indiana. But she sees it as fertile territory for Albion and plans to emphasize the unique liberal arts education the College can provide.
"It's working in small classrooms in collaboration with folks who may or may not be like you and then pondering big questions," she said. "The campus provides a lot of beautiful opportunities for that. I really got the impression [Albion] is a kind community and a community in transition in a lot of ways."
Goldman will also emphasize the fact that students can access Amtrak in downtown Chicago for a three-hour journey to and from campus.
She acknowledges, however, that the key to success will be to get Albion's name out to the various high school counselors in the region.
"Establishing a foothold is phase one," said Goldman, who graduated from Cornell College with a double major in politics and theater and earned her master's in education from Loyola University in Chicago.
Klein hopes the increased emphasis in the Chicago area will draw 100 students to Albion annually within three to five years. He added that if the emphasis is successful it could be expanded to other large population areas in the Midwest.
"This is kind of a prototype," he said.
The Admission Office is also expanding its alumni volunteer program to go beyond the referral initiative, headed by volunteer Angela Sheets, '82.
The referral program has resulted in connecting alumni with more than 500 prospective students in each of the past two years. Under Sheets, the effort has contributed significantly to the success of both recruiting cycles. She will now step aside in that role as the office devotes more staff to the program.
Marsha Whitehouse, '70, will continue in her role of volunteer training and serve as liaison to Institutional Advancement. Corey Grazul, '08, will develop infrastructure and communication to support the volunteers, create a college fair and spring awards program, and assist other recruiters with integrating alumni volunteers in their territories.
The addition of Goldman is also part of the expansion of the College's new alumni volunteer initiative, as she will work with alumni in Chicagoland to involve them in the recruitment process.