There are several factors that I believe will strongly influence a prospective athletes decision on where he or she will attend college.
Academics- Most student athletes know that they will not make a living as an athlete, so finding a school with a major that will serve them later in life should be paramount. In many cases, this is not part of the decision making process, as students do not always know what they want to major in.
Location- This can affect a decision in a couple of ways..... Proximity to home. Many students are wanting to experience life away from home, but usually, not too far. Most colleges have more In State students than out of State, and along those same lines, I am guessing that student populations many times will be made up of those within no more than a three hour drive.
Off campus amenities also will influence a prospective students decision. Will I be close to movies, malls, restaurants, etc. Will there be something to do?
Tuition- In today's economy, this is a huge concern for all students and parents. It is without question one of the largest limiting factors that Ferrum athletics faces. Although Ferrum's tuition is comparable to and in most cases less expensive than other in state private schools, the cost is still substantial. Loan programs and grant monies available, along with the College's work study program do offer some relief, but compared to State supported schools, Ferrum, in most cases, is a good bit more expensive.
Campus Visit- First impressions mean a lot, and Ferrum has made and continues to make huge strides in the physical appearance of the campus. Personally, I think the setting is gorgeous, and the campus offers the prospective student up to date modern facilities and conveniences.
College Recruitment Efforts-Another form of first impression. The first contact to get the student introduced to the college.
and last but not necessarily least, the athletic program at the college.
Ferrum is the type of school that attracts a certain type of student. They have to appreciate the setting, the small classes, the individualized attention that they will receive, and the quality of the education available. They have to understand, that this campus, while modern within it's borders, is fairly remote, and a good distance from suburbia.
The campus, under President Braaten's leadership has undergone a huge transformation in the past 9+ years. From the top of my head, I can count four new dormitories, a complete renovation and expansion of Franklin Hall, Penn Roediger Soccer Field, multiple upgrades and renovations to the academic and administrative buildings, Starbucks, Subway, Papa John's and most recently,the opening of the Hank Norton Athletic Center.
These improvements to the overall facility have made Ferrum a state of the art campus, offering the student a first rate education in a wonderful setting.
While fundraising efforts for the college have always been critical to it's success, the tuition at Ferrum has increased. As with many businesses, the costs to operate has increased, but Ferrum still ranks as one of the most affordable private schools in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
From an athletics standpoint, Ferrum is very comparable to most of the other colleges in it's conference. Of the eight schools currently in the conference, seven of them are private. The lone public school, is Christopher Newport University. Why does this matter? Well, the main differences between the public and private college, is tuition, and facilities. State tax revenues allow for the development of a campus with far less impact to the tuition, than would the private college which has to rely more on donations. Where the donations fall short, tuition has to make up much of the difference. Of course there are other streams of revenue, but the private college is at a huge disadvantage from a tuition point of view.
For Ferrum to be successful in athletics, they, like all other schools, must be successful in recruiting. They have to be able to identify their needs, find the best possible athletes to fill those needs, and then work to secure their commitment to come to Ferrum. It is a tough sell, but the students who come to Ferrum will find a caring faculty and staff dedicated to ensuring that their stay is a stay that will enrich their lives, and help them grow into a person of character. A person who will go out and make a positive contribution to society.
Ferrum is not all about academics, nor is it all about sports. It is not all about fraternities or sororities, nor is it all about clubs or activities. Ferrum is not all about creating life long friendships, nor is it all about an E-term in another country. But those who choose to come to Ferrum will have all of those opportunities and many more. Ferrum is a school that offers those that come through the gates, a chance to learn, grow, mature, and take their experiences into the world to make a difference....and that is what Ferrum is about. Not Self But Others.
There is so much that Ferrum can offer the student, and the student athlete. Recruiting may be difficult, but Ferrum has been very successful. Look at the results yielded in the past year: Women's Basketball, and Softball made the NCAA playoffs. The football team was in a position to make the playoffs also. These results would not be happening without the successful recruiting efforts of the coaching staffs, and others involved in the process.
The strain in today's economy makes the recruiting challenge even more difficult. With the uncertainty in the job market, the average family is looking to cut costs everywhere. This not only leads to difficulty in recruiting, but also in student and athlete retention.
Ferrum unveilrd the Norton Center Friday, and this is another jewel in the Ferrum crown. It will no doubt be a plus in the recruiting efforts for all sports. The college is moving in the right direction. The economy is not...at least not fast enough. Times will get better. I think you will see economic indicators improve, and possibly start to see...in a few years down the road, the western Franklin County hamlet of Ferrum start to develop into a small college town. It will never be a city, nor should it be, but some modest developments, may shorten the gap between Wiley Drive and suburbia.