Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sorry, Chancellor Zeppos, but the football team is not the reason more students are applying to Vanderbilt

Wanted to come back and comment on something that happened on Friday. Maybe you heard that Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos visited practice and was crediting Coach Johnson for Vanderbilt's record number of student applications this year.

Seems that Vanderbilt has seen a 16 percent spike in students — all students, not just student athletes — applying for admission to Vandy.

"We had a record year in applications," Zeppos said. "I think it's a combination of things: the success of the athletic program, the visibility of the program, the national media coverage, the local media coverage. And I think more kids are saying, 'Where can I get the best academics in the world and then go to SEC sports on the weekend?'

He attributed at least half of the increased applications to Johnson and his team's bowl season.

Not so sure about that. Kids come to Vanderbilt from all over the country. And one reason may be that the football team is NOT overpowering. I'm not kidding about that. The other day, I was talking with a Vanderbilt alumni in my home town and of course encouraging her to check out this here blog and she told me the football team was the reason she came to Vanderbilt.

Because when she came to Vandy, the football team was bad, and her family was die-hard Georgia Bulldog fans or whatever, and she wanted to get a Vanderbilt-caliber education but still maintain her allegiance to the Dawgs. And it's not a big conflict when your school's team doesn't have a chance in hell of beating the team you grew up rooting for.

I went to Vandy, and I can think of hundreds of examples of fellow students who'd root for Vanderbilt unless they were playing their home state team. Heck, the University of Alabama president's daughter went to Vandy when I was there, and she wanted Daddy's team to win, which wasn't exactly a problem. A guy from Pittsburgh was crying in the dorm hallway when Barry Goheen hit his miracle shot to beat the Panthers and put the Dores in the Sweet 16.

Sure, students want a good football team but they come to Vanderbilt to get an education. Let's not kid ourselves. If your main goal was to watch a good SEC football team, you'd go to Florida, right?

So why are more students applying to Vanderbilt? Because in a weak economy and an unbelievably competitive job market, a diploma to a prestigious university is more important than ever. And if things aren't turning around right away, what's the hurry to get out and make money, especially when your opportunities are limited? Might as well spend the next four years getting a top-notch education, right?

And here's the real reason: This is the first academic year that Vanderbilt has eliminated need-based loans. In other words, Vandy is not admitting a limited number of students whose families can't afford to send them to Vanderbilt. Instead, Vanderbilt is admitting students based on their own merits — not Daddy's income — and then figuring out how to pay for it. And instead of strapping them with need-based loans, Vanderbilt is raising the money to give these students scholarships and grants, meaning they don't have loans and they have nothing to pay back when they graduate.

Here's something off the university Web site:

Vanderbilt is commited to fostering an unparalleled educational experience that includes a community of talented and academically qualified individuals from all backgrounds. As a result, we do three very important things to make it possible for students from many different economic circumstances to enroll at Vanderbilt:

  1. We are need-blind in the admissions process. This means that a family's ability to pay for a Vanderbilt education is not a factor in our admissions process. Our goal is to admit students who will be academically successful and contribute to our community.
  2. We meet 100% of demonstrated financial need for all undergraduate students. With the additional investment that we make, many students often pay no more to attend Vanderbilt than they would pay to attend a college with a lower total cost.
  3. As stated above, financial aid packages for undergraduate students in the fall of 2009 will include no need-based loans.
But does having a competitive football team improve the overall college experience? You bet it does. At least I think it would. I went to Vanderbilt during the Watson Brown years, and believe me it doesn't get any worse than that.


1050 lb. said...

My guess is that the chancellor had no intention of being taken at face value for his comments; I'll bet he was just trying to show some love to the program and help drum up local fan excitement.


You're right. I just wanted to show off my limited understanding of the application process. And it is great to have a chancellor who loves sports; my chancellor was Joe B, who thought the sign of a great university was a terrible sports program.

1050 lb. said...

Alexander Heard, who passed away just a few weeks ago, was chancellor my freshman year. Not only did he host small-group receptions for incoming freshmen, he was highly visible on campus. Joe B was about as visible as JD Salinger. I have also been told that there was, during Gee's term as chancellor, an admissions bias against Nashville applicants. I have heard quite a few stories of heavy-donor alumni kids with very good GPA & test scores not getting into Vandy, which served to alienate Nashville alumni and by extension the community at large. Zeppos is reaching out to the community (and, it should be said, for whatever influence it has on the university's visibility, to the sports teams) to mend those proverbial fences. Having said that, I hope Zeppos does not go all Bruce Pearl on us and show up bare-shirted and chest-painted at a ballgame.


I like the comparison between Joe B and Salinger, though I did walk past him (Joe not JD) one morning in the parking lot of Vanderbilt Hall and, stunned to actually see him, I said, "How are you?" and he said, "No, how are you?"

Anyway, I agree that it's a great thing Zeppos is so involved on campus. He's told Johnson that he wants him to run more trick plays. Hopefully that doesn't mean Ted Cain's beloved triple reverse.

And yes, he should keep his shirt on.