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St. Lawrence University shifts to national recruitment strategy

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CANTON — As high school graduation rates decline, St. Lawrence University is casting its net across the country in hopes of luring new students to the north country.

St. Lawrence University deliberately keeps its enrollment fairly small, with about 2,400 total students expected to attend this fall. However, to meet its target of 640 new students each year, recruiters have had to cast a wider net.

High school graduation rates are dropping in the Northeast, leaving the university to look to cities such as San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and others to continue to attract new students.

These recruitment efforts have been underway for the past year, and so far St. Lawrence has seen an increase in new students from farther-flung locales.

Recruitment means more travel costs as the college sends officials out to sell students on the benefits of an education in the north country. It also helps to know what kind of students to sell to.

To this end, the university completed a “geodemography study” to create a profile of the perfect candidates.

Typical St. Lawrence University students did well in high school. They can afford the college’s $55,000 or higher price tag, although most receive some financial aid, and they love the great outdoors. Most are from the Northeast, but this may soon change, according to Jeffrey B. Rickey, vice president of admissions and financial aid.

“There are people who are like that, who behave like that, in other areas of the country,” he said. “They look and act like our students that come from the Northeast.”

The school is also looking overseas, in an attempt to boost recruitment of international students.

St. Lawrence is not going to ignore the Northeast, Mr. Rickey said. It is still easier to recruit students who are fairly close to home. These new wider-reaching efforts are meant to fill in the gaps.

“We always need to take care of our base, but we always need to reserve some of our resources for speculation,” Mr. Rickey said.

Part of the reason for the wider focus stems from a decision the university made three years ago to boost enrollment. Before 2010, the school tried to attract 600 new students a year; now it draws 640.

Despite the larger enrollment targets, the university has been able to maintain its 12:1 student/faculty ratio.

Construction on a new residence hall started in May.

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