The Old Main bell from Lombard College sits between Seymour Hall and Alumni Hall. It’s a constant reminder of Galesburg’s other liberal arts college, one that didn’t survive the Great Depression.
Knox College is neck-deep in the cut-throat environment of college admissions. We’re swimming through an ever-competitive market for prospective students, all the while trying to survive national economic forces that are putting downward pressure on college enrollment.
The coming years will prove pivotal for the future of the college. Last week’s top story in TKS detailed the enrollment shortfall mainly due to the absence of expected transfer students. Though we didn’t lose any ground, we failed to advance a plan to increase enrollment, thus improving our financial sustainability. We believe that absent more aggressive admissions and marketing efforts, the future of the college looks markedly bleak.
The July 25 article in the New York Times “College Enrollment Falls as Economy Recovers” explains a national decline in enrollment as part of a natural ebb and flow tied to economic forces. By its estimation, the 2 percent enrollment decrease for the 2012-2013 academic year is the starting point for a “contraction that will last for several years.”
There is no doubt that major overhauls of college admissions and marketing are required in coming years to make it through a national enrollment squeeze. The recent marketing study and communications consolidation are a good start, but we must consider how things have always been done — and whether that needs change.
But with an aggressively competitive national market for students, we don’t have the luxury of time. The offices that handle admissions and marketing should take time for introspection and take on projects that can be done with the resources already available on campus.
We believe the first priority should be an overhaul of the website. Though it may seem superficial, a fresh website will better engage prospective students and help them see why they belong at Knox College.
There have been campus-wide discussions about an overhaul of the website, which is largely outdated, visually uninteresting and difficult to navigate. It’s time to use the human capital available on campus to make this change a reality. Rather, we don’t need to wait for consultants when we already have capable designers and programmers (who ostensibly have ideas about how to improve the site).
This is not a catch-all fix for the college’s financial woes. But as we emerge from the so-called Great Recession, it’s time to accelerate the pace of change at Knox before we go the way of Lombard College.