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College changes a focus

As its traditional pool of high school graduates dries up, Concordia College must find students in new areas to fill classrooms, President Pamela Jolicoeur said Tuesday.

As its traditional pool of high school graduates dries up, Concordia College must find students in new areas to fill classrooms, President Pamela Jolicoeur said Tuesday.

"The answer is not our traditional feeder populations from the farms and small towns of this area," she said. "They will continue to come, we hope, but there will not be enough of them."

So Tuesday, Jolicoeur announced the hiring of a "key person" who will help the college develop and execute a new strategy for recruiting the next generation of Concordia students.

Omar Correa, vice president for enrollment management since 1999 at Clarke College in Dubuque, Iowa, will become Concordia's vice president for enrollment in July.

Correa said the job is an opportunity to work at a larger college. Clarke College had 1,180 students enrolled last fall, while Concordia had 2,814 - a decrease of 42 students from 2003-04.


Jolicoeur said the Lutheran liberal arts college must first make sure it is doing everything it can to recruit students from its traditional territory of northwestern Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana.

"But after that we must look at what are the more local, or more logical, areas for feeder students," she said.

The number of high school graduates in North Dakota is projected to drop from 8,064 this year to 6,777 in 2016, according to state Department of Public Instruction figures.

In Minnesota, public and non-public high school graduates were projected to peak at 63,000 in spring 2004 and then drop to 59,000 in 2013, according to the Minnesota Higher Education Services Office.

Even in Fargo, a city growing at an annual rate of almost 2 percent, the number of high school graduates is projected to drop from 2,004 last year to 1,973 in 2016, said Richard Rathge, director of the state Data Center at North Dakota State University.

Concordia, like NDSU and Minnesota State University Moorhead, must compete for graduates with a growing number of higher education options, Rathge said.

"There's a fair amount of competition going on," he said, adding enrollment increases at NDSU have come largely from nontraditional students.

Concordia also must react to the changing face of students, Jolicoeur said. The only growth among Minnesota high school graduates will be in underrepresented groups, with Hispanics making up the largest percentage, she said.


college jump

Nationwide, the class of 2014 is expected to be nearly one-fifth Hispanic, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education reported last year.

Recruiting students from underrepresented groups is continually a challenge for Midwest schools, said Correa, a native of Puerto Rico who worked for two years in the admissions office at Iowa State University.

One advantage, he said, is that college such as Concordia and Clarke, a Catholic college, are becoming more attractive to families.

"I think the faith-based education is something students are looking for more and more," he said.

Jolicoeur said Correa has experience recruiting under circumstances similar to those he'll face at Concordia.

Correa holds a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Iowa State and is working on a master's in business administration.

"I think Omar brings a unique combination of analytical skills ... and the proven ability to motivate a staff," Jolicoeur said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528

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