Ten years into the presidency of Quinnipiac College, John Lahey has his school movin' on up in enrollment, dollars and prestigeJohn L. Lahey became there eighth president of Quinnipiac College, founded in 1929, in 1987. The decade since then has seen a 450-percent increase in the college's financial resources and the there of the Echlin Health Sciences Center, the Ed McMahon Mass Communications Center, the Lender School of Business and the acquisition of the former University of Bridgeport School of Law.Describe what there saw when you arrived at QC ten years ago.there. have. In the ten years since on the undergraduate level, we've seen [enrollment] growth of 75 percent without adding any new programs. It's all taken place in the health, business and communications areas that were already there. So we've marketed the college better and more effectively, and gotten the message out on a broader regional basis. Ten years ago, 60 percent of undergraduates came from Connecticut; today only 30 percent come from Connecticut. And we've also increased the base: In 1987 we had about 1,900 [undergraduates]; in the fall of 1997 we'll have about 3,400.
How does one go about marketing a college to a wider audience?
The most important thing is to target important markets that relate to the programs you have. The health area is a good example. Our health programs - physical therapy, occupational therapy, respiratory care, radiography - were very strong, but I don't think people appreciated the resources we had in greater New Haven. And I think greater New Haven continues to be under-marketed as a center for health, biomedicine and pharmaceutical activities. So students coming to Quinnipiac could stay on our beautiful campus and get an excellent education in the classroom, but also have clinical experiences, internships and work experiences benefiting from the health, biomedicine and pharmaceutical resources of the area. So one of the things we've done over the years is to tie our marketing efforts at Quinnipiac to the broader resources of the New Haven area.
How can we as a region better market ourselves as a center for health and biomedicine?
In marketing, you can't be good in everything. You have to pick the areas where you have internal strengths and resources that are substantial. One of our strengths at Quinnipiac is [the recognition] that we're not in everything. We're known for business, for health, for communications and for law. We don't have a fine-arts program; we don't have an engineering program. One of the keys to marketing is to pick one or two areas and pour all of your resources into those areas. You have to be niche player. I don't know that greater New Haven has ever made a substantial and comprehensive effort to say, 'Look - we want people from outside the area when they think of New Haven to think of health, biomedicine and pharmaceuticals.' I should add that that's not a narrow niche; it's a huge niche, and one in which we have substantial resources and expertise.
Is QC at its ideal size now in terms of undergrad and graduate enrollment, or would you like to see it continue to grow?
I should also mention that we've grown graduate-student enrollment from about 100 students to about 1,600. At the undergraduate level we are pretty much where we are going to be for the duration we foresee. At the graduate level we have added about a dozen programs in the past ten years. In the health area we now have a master's degree in physical therapy, a master's degree in med-lab sciences, we've just recently added a master's degree in the physicians-assistant program, next year we'll be adding a master's degree in science and nurse practitioner. In our business school we've added a master's in business administration, a master's degree in health administration. In our liberal arts school we've added a master's degree in teaching. In September we'll enroll our first students in the master's degree in journalism program - the only journalism [master's] degree between New York and Boston. We acquired the law school five years ago now. And we will be adding additional programs in the health, business and communications areas. We'll end up with a graduate enrollment of between 2,000 and 2,500.
You've also pumped up the school's fiscal health. In addition to getting CEOs of major companies on the board of trustees, how have you gone about this?
Certainly you can improve the fiscal picture by cutting expenses and increasing income. Most of our [efforts] were on the income side; I don't think there was a lot of fat at Quinnipiac when I arrived. So on the income side we've had increased enrollment and substantially increased fundraising. Over the past ten years we have increased fundraising by over 450 percent. In 1986 we raised $100,000 or so; we have raised over $2 million four of the last five years. Next year we have a few major gifts in the works that could push us over $4 million or $5 million. That's been in part a function of board development: We've doubled the size of the board, and more than half of them are new since I arrived. The one area we want to work on now is our endowment, in order to have a base of long-term security.
Why were some of your Hamden neighbors so vigorously opposed to your building a new 405-bed dormitory?
Well, we modified our proposal to Hamden Planning & Zoning. Originally there was a parking lot that was part of that project, which we dropped. There clearly has been growth at this institution over the past ten years, and some people who have moved into the area in recent years have seen increased traffic on the roads, and more people coming and going from Quinnipiac. Also, ten years ago only about 55 percent of our students lived on campus; now 85 percent of students are residential. So the growth in enrollment combined with the almost doubling of the number of students living on campus caused concern among some neighbors that we were going to continue to grow [at the same rate]. In the end we were able to convince people that the need for those 405 beds was not to fuel growth at the undergraduate level, but to accommodate students who were already living on campus but were living three to a room designed for two, or five to a room designed for four.
Why is it important for QC to compete at the Division I level in athletics?
Because we compete academically with almost all Division I institutions. If I were living in the ideal world, athletics wouldn't be nearly as important or necessary as part of a college experience. But the reality is that we are a sports-minded country and world, athletics are important, and colleges and universities are a reflection of the larger society. Going back to our marketing strategy, you have to always be very consistent. If you look at the top ten institutions we compete against academically - [including] the University of Connecticut, University of Massachusetts, Boston University, Northeastern, Hofstra, Providence College, Fairfield, the University of Hartford - they're all Division I institutions. But in recent years, as we've become better known, we've found that our athletic programs have really been a drag on our overall marketing efforts. Because we compete academically against the institutions I just mentioned; but then you turn around and compete athletically against Assumption College, or St. Michael's College, or other small liberal-arts colleges in the Northeast 10 [conference]. And it creates kind of a 'disconnect' in people's minds. So the reason to go to Division I is to get out the message more consistently that Quinnipiac is a high-quality academic institution in the areas of business, health, communications and law. And playing against those schools with which we compete academically is a logical way to do that
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