Loyola College is thinking big Ambitious plans call for new buildings and amenities

October 18, 1998|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,SUN STAFF

Loyola College is hoping another move across Charles Street will help it make a name for itself nationwide.

Plans for a student recreation center on the site of Boumi Temple are among the changes that have turned what not long ago was a local commuter college into a regional university.

Loyola officials plan to start playing on the national stage.

"We want to be considered one of the best Catholic colleges in the country," said the Rev. Harold E. "Hap" Ridley Jr., S.J., the school president. "Right there with Holy Cross, Georgetown and Boston College."

The effort is evident in the influential yearly rankings published by U.S. News and World Report. Loyola has risen to a tie for third among regional universities in the North, but its competition has made it to the national university rankings, with Georgetown 20th and Boston College 36th. In a different category, national colleges, Holy Cross is 30th.

To compete with those schools, Loyola needs a larger pool of applicants that will lead to a better student-body profile -- more selective admissions, higher SAT scores and other such criteria.

Attracting a broader range of high school seniors means offering the types of amenities under construction on campus.

In addition to an expanded science center and a new building for the business school -- and preliminary plans for athletic fields several miles west that would free space for more building on campus -- a cafeteria is being built in the high-rise dormitory on Cold Spring Lane, and a revamped student center is planned for the main campus.

The recreational sports center on the Boumi Temple site will have an indoor pool, weight rooms, exercise machines and such.

"With all the emphasis on fitness these days, these places have become where students meet and socialize," Ridley said of the fitness center.

Recruiting farther afield

But attracting more and better applicants also requires developing a reputation among high school seniors, a process that is taking Loyola representatives to cities they used to consider out of their orbit -- such as Chicago and Cleveland.

"Every day that it snows in Cleveland is a good day for Loyola," said Ridley.

The move to make the school a university of national reputation stems from a strategic plan adopted last year.

"Usually I look on strategic plans with a bit of skepticism," said Ridley, who has been president since 1994. "It's easy to be guilty of hubris in them. But when I looked at the objectives of this one, my skepticism diminished."

Loyola officials point to signs of progress. Among them:

Fifteen years ago, 75 percent of its students were from Maryland. Today, 75 percent are from out of state.

The school's average SAT scores have risen consistently to a combined 1,192 for this year's freshman class.

Its applicant pool has grown to more than 5,800 for a freshman class of about 875.

The first move across Charles Street -- purchasing the apartments that became student residences -- turned the commuter school into a residential campus.

Now Loyola hopes to get the attention of more people such as Drew Tenney, a junior. He's from Duxbury, Mass., about 40 miles south of Boston, and was applying to Villanova University in Pennsylvania when he heard about Loyola.

"I'm really glad I came here," Tenney said. "It's just the right size, not too small so you know everybody, but not too big so you get lost in the crowd."

Only one other person from his high school had gone to Loyola. Two have followed Tenney. That's the way Loyola officials say they work -- one high school at a time, getting some students to come and hoping the word gets back.

Feeder schools

"Word-of-mouth is very important," said William J. Bossemeyer, Loyola's admissions director, who said his staff focuses on turning Catholic high schools into what are known as feeder schools for Loyola, which is about 75 percent Catholic.

Bossemeyer said that when he came to Loyola in 1976, most of its applicants also applied to other schools in Maryland.

"Now our top five cross-application schools are Villanova, Boston College, Fairfield, Holy Cross and Georgetown," he said.

Loyola holds its own with Villanova and Fairfield (in Connecticut) but is usually the second choice of students applying to Georgetown, Boston College and Holy Cross. Loyola accepted two-thirds of its applicants this year -- more than 3,500 students -- to get its class of 872. Undergraduate enrollment is limited to 3,200 by an agreement with neighborhood residents.

"It's not one of our top cross-application schools, but we have started to hear about Loyola," said Ann Bowe McDermott, director of admissions at Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. "Usually, it's about their merit scholarships, which we don't offer. Our financial aid is need-based. It's a difference in philosophy."

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