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CU Denver is targeting the wrong students

Illustration: Madalyn Drewno

An untraditional campus calls for untraditional students

Adam Smith, the father of economics, proposed that countries should specialize in their most efficient means of production relative to others. Today, this translates into businesses cutting non-revenue generators to focus on producing efficiency.

Universities are businesses that move around large revenues from both private and public sectors. How this money is utilized is of central concern to undergraduates and alumni alike, as it can make their degree look more or less attractive depending on the competitiveness of their school relative to others. In the case of CU Denver’s new recruitment policy targeting high school freshmen, some students are scratching their heads, as it is not an empirically valid target market to specialize in.

According to CU Denver’s website, the median age of undergraduate students at CU Denver is 24, meaning the undergraduate body hosts comparatively few 18-year-old freshmen. Since the 90s, the university has been engaged in a pre-collegiate development program for high school students, with a mere 64 students entering the university through the program and only 19 matriculating. It may be a surprise, but this is not a bad thing.

According to the Education Commission, nontraditional education has become the vanguard in a highly competitive academic market. Effectually, traditional dorm live-in campuses with large sports arenas are declining in popularity. Employers are interested in people who hit the ground running, not what sorority, fraternity, or college sport team they joined. Costs associated with spending each year in college are things consumers would like to minimize. If a student can graduate in three years and remain competitive, then many will be drawn to other campuses.

CU Denver hosts about 1,300 military-connected students, and 63 percent of them are between the ages of 25-40. Meanwhile, state aid to the university was surpassed years ago by self-generated revenue, revealing CU Denver’s best friend is itself, not the government. To thrive in this industry, schools cannot depend on contributions from state-sponsored programs but on their own competitive advantage. Each year, freshmen are dwarfed by about 2,145 transfer students compared to just 1,575 incoming freshmen. With numbers like these and only one dorm residence hosting 750 students on campus, it’s clear who the target market is despite what some may want it to be.

CU Denver’s natural progression to a rigorous, academic-focused school has manifested numerous private school characteristics. CU should specialize in connecting with those who receive associate degrees with high GPAs and let junior colleges focus on high school recruitment. Most adolescents are not concerned with a post-high school reality until the end of sophomore year, especially not at a school where academia is the main focus, not sports. CU Denver’s reputation coupled with the general demand for Denver city life will influence future students as a catch-all directive, rather than diverting focus to a failed social plan.

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