Jeff Schneider is a man on a mission. For the past 10 years or so, Schneider has been tirelessly working to raise Xavier’s profile among college-bound high school students in Texas.
“When you look at the makeup of the University, there are a lot of students from Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana,” Schneider says. “But about 10 or 12 years ago, I looked at Texas, and it was in 32nd or 33rd place among states as far as the number of students going to Xavier.”
That was unacceptable to Schneider, so he began asking Dallas-area alums and parents of current students to help recruit new students. They sent teams to area college nights. They contacted high school counselors and, working from lists of students who applied to Xavier, manned the phones—an average of five follow-up calls per student over a five-month period.
They called parents of potential students as well, encouraging them to look at retention rates, medical or law school acceptance rates, graduation rates—stuff that parents care about.
And it worked.
“We didn’t used to have a presence,” he says. “Now we do.” Texas now ranks just outside of the top 10 states that send students to Xavier, and why it worked is simple: personal contact.
“When you call the students and talk to them about value in education, it makes them feel that Xavier wants them,” Schneider says. “If you don’t make them feel wanted, some other university will.”
The concept works so well, the University created a similar program with some of its alumni chapters last year that helped bring in the largest class in Xavier history. Known as the Alumni Enrollment Ambassador Program, the effort now involves more than 100 alumni from around the country.
“From an admission perspective, our goal is to connect alumni with parents as well as students to most effectively transmit the value of a Xavier education—the quality of the education for the price,” says Aaron Meis, dean of admission. “Our office tries to focus on outcomes such as graduation rates, placement rates and average starting salaries. What alumni are able to do is tell their story of Xavier in a more personal way, to convey the value of the education they received and how it helped them succeed.”
Schneider, a double graduate—1968 and 1979—and president of the Dallas/Fort Worth chapter, is a case in point. “I got a quality education from Xavier, so for me I get the inspiration in passing that story on to other students. That’s what drives me to do this. I want to make sure Xavier grows in every facet. You can’t sit back and say ‘Last year we were great.’ You have to make it great every year. I want Xavier to be the Jesuit school of choice in the country.”
Students in various regions around the country identified by the Office of Admission are being targeted for calls from ambassadors, although anyone can get involved, says Joe Ventura, executive director of the National Alumni Association. In fact, he says, if there’s one thing the program needs, it’s more volunteers so it can match the rapidly growing number of students who are applying to Xavier.
Last year, volunteers made 107 calls to 302 prospective students. That generated a highly effective yield rate—or the number of students who enrolled—of 40 percent, which is nearly double the yield rate of students who weren’t called by ambassadors.
This year the University added an earlier phase when ambassadors called students who expressed interest in Xavier but hadn’t yet applied in an effort to encourage them to consider Xavier.
“It was such a delight to talk to these young students who are so full of promise,” says William Wester, a 1987 graduate and president of the Chicago alumni chapter. “You just try to let them know what a great place Xavier is. If they decide to attend, great. If they decide to go somewhere else, well, Xavier’s not for everyone. You just try to leave them with a good impression of Xavier because maybe they have a brother or a friend who might be interested. You never know how it might pay off.”