Albion College invests in downtown to improve recruitment

Associated Press
In this Feb. 11, 2019 photo, Superior Street in downtown Albion, Mich., is shown.

Albion – A small liberal arts college and its alumni have become more involved in development projects in the southern Michigan city where the school is based to boost school recruitment.

The city has struggled for years with population loss following the departure of industry and businesses. Albion College also suffered a decline in enrollment from a peak of nearly 2,000 students in 2005 to about 1,200 in 2014, The Battle Creek Enquirer reported.

“The future of colleges like Albion is inextricably linked to the quality of life in their host communities,” said College President Mauri Ditzler. “I’ve always felt that, if you want to improve the quality of the college, you have to think about the quality of its town.”

“Finally, someone said, ‘Hey, we can’t continue like this,” said Dr. Bill Dobbins, who graduated from the college in 1974. “Because, frankly, when mom and dad bring Susie to visit Albion College, they look at the campus and they go, ‘This is nice, let’s go downtown,’ and look at the town and they go, ‘This isn’t so nice.’”

Dobbins’ investment company, ACE Investment Properties, is renovating buildings downtown. Alumni were also a part of the nonprofit that purchased and sold the property for a $12 million hotel in the city. The college invested $4 million in the project.

The college also partnered with Oaklawn Hospital on an urgent care clinic to address a lack of health care options. The city’s hospital closed in 2002.

“It’s something the college is very excited about, because better health care in town is a reason our employees will want to live here,” Ditzler said. “It’s better health care and more comprehensive health care for our students. I think it will also help with recruitment of students. It will also have an impact on all residents of town.”