Business school expanding to boost enrollments

By Joe Pinter, @JPinter93

(Second in a series on Bonaventure’s enrollment)

ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. (Feb. 5) — Not long after the paint has dried on the walls of the new Swan Business Center, Pierre Balthazard has plans for expansion of the business school at St. Bonaventure University.

The dean of the business school continues to look for ways to broaden the curriculum of the school. Making that task easier is the fact that the school of 500 students has been one of the few at Bonaventure to maintain somewhat steady enrollments the last few years.

Balthazard said the school is waiting on two new majors to be approved by New York State: engineering management and an online program that gives people who don’t have college degrees an easier opportunity to earn one than regularly attending class on campus.

The engineering management major would be intended for those who prefer the operational side of business (plants, statistics process control, etc.) and Balthazard hopes to begin the major with roughly 20 or 30 students per class.

The new majors would be added to the current choices of: accounting, finance, business information systems, marketing and management. The school also offers coursework in entrepreneurship and a minor in family business.

Bonaventure is also only the 43rd school in the nation to have a CFA Institute-approved finance major. Now, Balthazard looks to have a specialized Master’s in Business Administration for finance majors.

The business school is one of only 5 percent of business schools worldwide to be accredited by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Business, a distinction it has held since 2004.

Additionally, the school is expanding its MBA program to accommodate those taking classes at the Buffalo Center at Hilbert College in Hamburg, N.Y.

The new technology in the Swan Center would be used to broadcast directly from classrooms — both here and in Hamburg– and back. The technology has also created many other opportunities for students.

Just a few weeks ago, six students had a video conference in a Swan conference room with a university trustee. And BonaResponds recently gave a class of students in Swan a lecture from Delhi, N.Y about learning how to harvest technology.

The business school finds itself in an envious position. While other buildings and schools on campus are in the process of planning renovations (see: Professional Building, Murphy), it can focus its attention almost solely on growth in academics instead of growth in square feet.

The man in charge of the business school has received national attention in the past.

Before being named a dean at Bonaventure in the summer of 2011, Balthazard had been an associate professor in the Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

He even co-authored a paper that has been accepted as the feature article in an issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology. Other co-authors included professors from Wake Forest University, Arizona State University, the U.S. Army and the University of South Florida.

The paper, which studied and identified parts of the brain that help make someone a good leader, is a result of years of work by Balthazard, who was featured in a CNN story at the time.

“From someone’s brain map I can tell if someone would rank high, medium or low on a psychometric assessment of their transformational leadership, and just that is an earth-shattering finding,” he told CNN International in 2009.

But neurological studies don’t exactly make recruiting in the Northeast any easier.

Much has been said in western New York about population loss, even moreso after the 2008 financial crisis. 70 percent of Bonaventure’s students come from New York, which has lost 2.7 million students since the 2008-09 school year. The New York and Pennsylvania area also has the highest concentration of higher education institutions in the world; further complicating the situation, according to university officials.

The high concentration of schools happens to be one of the many reasons Bonaventure and Hilbert College in Hamburg, N.Y. agreed to a thorough study of more collaboration between the two Franciscan schools, according to university officials.

Other area private schools such as Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y. have also had an extremely difficult time maintaining enrollment numbers while also maintaining academic standards and healthy budgets.

The Jesuit school of roughly 3,084 has lost over 100 students from the incoming freshman class over the last 10 years. The freshman class currently sits around 700, according to documents obtained from Canisius’ academic website.

The 2013 incoming freshman class currently has roughly 150 business majors — down 25 from the fall of 2008.

Balthazard said both Canisius and Niagara University often have more resources and aggressive recruiting practices, making it difficult for Bonaventure to keep pace with some of the other private, Catholic schools in the area.

Since the fall of 2007, Bonaventure’s incoming freshman business major class has been 139, 150, 110, 119, 104, 135 and is currently 127 — an average of roughly 126 students.

The school has had some down years with incoming students, such as 2011. But the last two fall semesters have brought in around 130 students; closer to the incoming numbers before the recession hit in 2008.

It is still too early to put a concrete number on next year’s class, but the target is 150, said Balthazard.

Balthazard points to the high retention rate in the business school (80 percent) and believes that number signals approval of the school. The retention rate for all of Bonaventure has been near 80 percent for the last few years.

Since the Common Application began, students have found looking for schools much easier. But do they always know where the school is? Is Allegany in Pennsylvania or New York? Is it spelled Allegany or Allegheny?

The Common App, which is an college application that encompasses 517 member colleges and universities, makes it easier for students to look at schools far away, is both good and bad for Bonaventure. More area students may choose to go far from home, and students in the south or midwest may look at Bonaventure and not know anything about the school.

Some families have negative perceptions about New York State: population loss, high taxes, etc. Balthazard said a student shouldn’t have negative preconceptions about any school.

“We are much, much better face-to-face than on the internet,” he said.

128 Bonaventure students and faculty are currently attempting to visit 107 high schools in eight states (New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and Virginia).  But those states are in the vicinity of Bonaventure’s main recruiting areas.

“We are well known in New York City, but are we known in Chicago? Charlotte?” he said. “Why are we limited to Allegany?”

Getting the student to visit is more than half the battle.

“The sale is typically made when parents see students working in the classrooms,” he said.

The projections for next year may look somewhat promising, but enrollment continues to be a struggle in general at Bonaventure.

Until students send in their deposits for 2014-15, it is difficult to put an exact number on enrollments.

But the business school has fared better than other schools at Bonaventure.

Adding more majors and having a shiny new building for students to see definitely helps the process, Balthazard said.

Ideally, it would help a lot.

(Next up: the School of Education)

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