Location matters. It matters a lot. Every real estate agent knows this, and so do most parents and prospective students when looking at colleges. Yet it is a factor in the college choice process frequently ignored by the college guides, or in the rankings of institutions.
Many of America’s finest small colleges are located in the middle of nowhere. As this issue of the NOW highlights, North Central is in the middle of somewhere—and that location is an integral part of what makes us a great college…and a great choice.
In addition to the programmatic benefits of our location—such as the opportunity to study first-hand diverse populations (or anything else that goes with a major metropolis), and the myriad of internships available close by—and the "lifestyle benefits," such as a safe, historic, suburban neighborhood adjacent to an exciting and vibrant downtown—there are some less obvious, but no less significant ones.
Start with the College’s closeness to two major airports. Throughout the year, students, faculty and staff have readily available transportation to anywhere in the world—and usually at extremely competitive rates. Over four years, the savings can add up to thousands of dollars.
Add in the availability of well-paying jobs within walking distance to the campus, and career-related jobs within a short drive. Most of today’s college students work (or want to work) part-time—and that may mean as many as 30 hours per week—both to meet tuition, room and board costs, and to fund "amenities," such as a car. Whatever I may think of this development, it is a reality. In many college towns, jobs are few and far between, and mostly minimum wage. For a student "in the middle of somewhere"—downtown Naperville—a great location may mean not only a "job certain," but higher pay: $50, $100 or more in additional earnings per week, and thousands and thousands of dollars over a college career.
And then there is the issue of faculty and staff recruitment. Among the hundreds of candidates for faculty and administrative positions I have interviewed over the past 17 years, rare is the individual for whom the benefits of living in Naperville or Chicago (with a fast train connection to campus) have not been an important part of the equation. The availability of colleagues to work with at Northwestern, the University of Chicago, Argonne and Fermilab…unlimited professional and career opportunities for spouses or partners…these locational advantages have brought many great employees to campus whom we might not have attracted if we were in the middle of nowhere.
These are only a few of the benefits of being located in a city Money Magazine ranks among the best in the nation, on a campus with easy access to Chicago, one of the greatest cities in the world. Of course, if I were president of a college 100 miles from the nearest major city or airport, and 250 miles from a high-tech corridor, I would try to convince prospective students, faculty and staff of the virtues of a bucolic campus where you can see cows out the window of your residence hall. But I would be thinking…I wish I had a location as great as North Central College’s.
Harold R. Wilde
North Central Now, March 2008