CORVALLIS, Ore. - Bob Bontrager hopes Oregon State University wins more than a football game when it travels to Hawaii for the O'ahu Bowl on Christmas Day.
He hopes the university wins the hearts and minds of prospective students.
Bontrager, director of Admission and Orientation at OSU, said the nationally televised football game against the University of Hawaii is a great student recruiting tool. "We clearly are benefitting from the improved fortunes of our high-profile athletic programs, and will benefit tremendously from the O'ahu Bowl telecast," he said.
Last December, the university saw a 25 percent increase in admission applications from out-of-state students following two nationally televised football games featuring the Beavers. While the university had been doing many new things to increase admission numbers, Bontrager said nearly all of those efforts were targeted at in-state students.
"Aside from the spill-over of our Portland television and newspaper advertising into southwestern Washington, the only difference in our exposure to out-of-state students was the fact that two of our football games were televised nationally by Fox Sports Net," Bontrager said. "I am convinced that those football telecasts played a big role in generating more interest from out-of-state students."
At the same time, OSU was offering its new Provost's Scholarships to out-of-state students, allowing it to capitalize and enroll a higher percentage of out-of-state applicants than previous years. This year the OSU football team was featured in six live television games broadcast either regionally or nationally. Bontrager said out-of-state applications are up another 30 percent over last year at this time. "I look for that increase to grow in the wake of the O'ahu Bowl," he said.
The fact that the Beavers are playing in Hawaii doesn't hurt student recruiting, Bontrager said. From 1993 to 1998, the number of high school students from Hawaii enrolled at OSU jumped from 183 to 279 - a 52 percent increase. During that time period, it was the largest increase at OSU from any state outside of Oregon.
With 359 students, Hawaii now sends more out-of-state students to Oregon State University than any other state except California. More than 120 new students from Hawaii enrolled at OSU last term, the most new out-of-state students from any state.
Bontrager said he's not surprised to see larger numbers of students from Hawaii choosing OSU because the university has emphasized the state for student recruitment. The university's orientation program in Hawaii has grown from 28 students in 1995 to 124 students this year. As part of the program, the university sends advisers, staff from Admission & Orientation and representatives from Alumni Relations and the OSU Foundation to Hawaii to talk with students and their families.
Along with the traveling group, current OSU students from Hawaii who are home for the summer join their parents and local alumni to help answer questions. Students receive placement testing, advising, computer course registration and orientation to OSU and Corvallis.
The university typically makes three trips a year to Hawaii to recruit students. While the university won't send student recruiters to Hawaii for the O'ahu Bowl trip, Bontrager said the excitement generated by the OSU football team, boosters, and large alumni base will no doubt help recruit local high school students.
"To say our recruiting programs in Hawaii have been extremely well received would be an understatement," Bontrager said. "The numbers themselves provide the best evidence of that, but we also receive many glowing comments from parents regarding the degree to which they appreciate our special efforts in providing this program."