Rose Bowl appearances bolster UO recruitment in California

When the Ducks fly south for the Rose Bowl in January, the University of Oregon will be represented by more than the football team.

Joining the players will be a flock of faculty members, researchers, current students, fundraisers and admissions experts who will make their way to Pasadena to shine the spotlight on academics.

“There is always a sense of energy and excitement when we play a bowl game, but the Rose Bowl takes that energy to a whole different level,” said Roger Thompson, vice president for student services and enrollment management. “The game is a huge draw for prospective students, families, alumni, fans and friends in the area. We want to leverage the attention the Rose Bowl provides to showcase our world-class academic programs and exceptional student experience.”

Southern California has long been an important region for the UO, both for student recruitment and alumni involvement. The UO is the top out-of-state choice for California students, and more than 10 percent of the student body hails from the southern half of the state.

The region is also home to more than 10,000 alumni, making it the largest network outside of Oregon. Southern California is decidedly Duck country, and the festive atmosphere of the Rose Bowl offers a great opportunity to drum up donor support.

“Ducks everywhere take great pride in helping future generations of students attend the UO, and we have a particularly enthusiastic group of alumni, family and friends in Southern California,” said Mike Andreasen, vice president for university advancement. “The Rose Bowl is the perfect occasion to celebrate that community’s generosity and demonstrate the UO’s widespread impact.”

With the Jan. 15 application deadline fast approaching, much of the strategic focus for Rose Bowl events and communications will be on undergraduate recruitment. The UO receives 30 percent of nonresident applications in the two weeks before the deadline, and the chance to meet with hundreds of potential students during that critical time is invaluable.

“From our big prospective student reception to the service project to the parade and the game, the goal of all the events is to connect students considering the UO with the people who can best tell them what campus life is like,” Thompson said. “There is no comparison between reading about your major on a website and discussing it with the dean of the school or college. That human connection creates a significant difference in how a student views the institution and makes a college decision.”

Enrollment data from prospective student events during the UO’s most recent bowl games indicate that lift is substantial. Students who attended the 2018 Redbox Bowl reception applied to the UO at a rate four times higher than students who did not attend the reception, and those who were admitted enrolled at a rate that was twice as high compared to the general nonresident student population.

More generally, the UO’s past Rose Bowl appearances have heralded considerable increases in enrollment from Southern California. Since the Ducks faced the Ohio State Buckeyes in Pasadena in 2010, the annual number of incoming students from the area has more than doubled. And following the 2014 Rose Bowl appearance, the 2015 incoming class included 588 students from the region, a record that stood until fall 2019.

As the number of Oregon students graduating high school each year stagnates, out-of-state recruitment will continue to gain importance. California has more than 476,000 high school seniors this year, and many will consider the UO as their college of choice.

“The UO is here to serve Oregon first and foremost,” Thompson said. “But as a tier-one research university in a smaller-population state, we have to bring in students from outside our borders. Just by sheer numbers alone, California has many outstanding students who end up looking out of state, and the UO offers a lot of advantages for them. We are the top institution in the country for the number of California students who elect to enroll outside the state of California. The more we can engage with those students and share the value of a UO education, the more impact we have on their college decision.”