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Video: Late Night BU
Video: Taste of Bradley
Video: Block Party
By Dave Haney
of the Journal Star
A California teen who's earned a national speech title; two suburban Chicago friends who started their own successful business making beanbag toss boards; a top Florida high school pitcher who last fall pitched for Boston Red Sox and the Chicago White Sox scout teams; and an Ohio kid who biked six weeks across the country to raise money. What do they have in common?
They are just a handful of students in the new freshman class at Bradley University, flocking to Peoria this weekend in advance of the first day of classes on Wednesday.
And despite an economic crisis that may have some other universities struggling with enrollment, Bradley is flourishing. Some 1,113 freshman are attending the college this fall. By contrast, Bradley's target was and has been 1,080 freshmen, which they've struggled to achieve.
"It exceeds expectations and is evident of a number things: strong academic programs available at Bradley, Bradley is affordable for a private institution and our facilities are improving - the Markin (Family Recreation) Center for one," said Shelley Epstein, associate vice president for university communications.
The recently completed $25 million Markin Center is visited by some 1,600 students and faculty members daily during the school year. In fact, campus tours now begin and end there.
Bradley also is growing elsewhere on campus: a new sports communication program and a growing nursing program; there's a new pre-law center and under construction is a new athletic performance center and expansion of Westlake Hall for education and health sciences.
With tuition about $24,000 a year, Epstein said there is no empirical evidence - but there is some anecdotal evidence - that points to some students choosing Bradley over higher priced private universities and larger institutions.
Still, Epstein admits the school likely could be losing other students to community college or elsewhere for the same reason. As far as student aid, Epstein said the college doled out more funds to students this year.
"From the admissions process through graduation, Bradley provides a personal hands-on family experience for students and their families . . . students have a very unique leadership opportunity and education opportunity here that are unavailable at other colleges and universities," Epstein said.
And what many may not realize, the Bradley official noted, is the financial incentive to the local community.
"There are 1,113 consumers who will shop at Target, Wal-Mart, go to movies and restaurants - it's an economic boost," Epstein said. "And hopefully when they're done at Bradley, some will stay in the community and start a family here."