Will Hockey be Tail That Wags Union Brand?

Tim Goral's picture
Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Two weeks ago Thursday Union College sent out its annual "Congrats, you got in" letters to a select group of applicants. About 30 or so percent of them traditionally take the college up on its offer to attend.

The same week many of those students got that letter, something unprecedented happened: tiny Union College, the one the national media consistently tags with (N.Y.) after its name to locate the school and differentiate it from the seven other institutions of higher learning with "Union" in its name, earned its first berth in the Frozen Four — Division I hockey's equivalent of the Final Four.

What will be the impact of the Dutchmen's historic run on the ice for this historic college?

"I didn't factor into my yield projections a bump for this press and this attention," said Matt Malatesta, director of admissions, financial aid and enrollment. "So I'm curious. It was not part of my calculus. I can't even guess."

What if it's a 5 percent bump in those wanting to come? Ten?

"You're stressing me out here this morning?"

College president Stephen C. Ainlay leaned in. "You have an extra room?"

It's doubtful Union College's inaugural appearance in the Frozen Four will have that kind of overall impact on the school. It's likely it won't match that of Siena after the Loudonville college made three straight NCAA men's basketball tournaments from 2008-10. Applications more than doubled compared to five years earlier, and donations to the athletics fund rose more than $200,000, to $469,000. The link between the basketball team's success and the increased interest and generosity seems clear.

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