Getting To Know: High Point University (NC)
Among the schools on my North Carolina college tour I was most anxious to visit High Point University. This is going to be a long post, longer than any other you’ll find on Educated Quest. I hope that you’ll stick with me and read on. There’s a lot of information to take in. I also gathered a few photos on Pinterest for you.
High Point University has several academic strengths.
This is especially true for a student who might be undecided between business or communications and the liberal arts, or between the sciences and engineering Every student is assigned a success coach to help at the start, and the university will not cap students out of popular majors. The academic facilities for virtually every program are state of the art. I dropped three photos of the science center interior below.
I wrote about High Point almost five years ago after it announced incentives for prospective freshmen to apply Early Decision.
Those incentives seem to be working, though I questioned their value back when I wrote that post. High Point got 45 percent of its most recent freshman class through Early Decision. Another 45 percent were admitted through Early Action, when you can postpone the decision all the way to May 1. These numbers are high for a school that does not have exceptionally selective admissions. High Point also attracts nearly three-quarters of its undergraduate student body from states outside of North Carolina. That, too, is impressive, considering that the school is not in or near one of the larger cities in the state, nor close to beaches or mountains.
A student who would be mid-pack at The College of New Jersey (3.9 GPA/1250 SAT/28 ACT) could qualify for a merit scholarship and likely be admitted to all but the most competitive programs in the health professions or the Fellows in various majors. Admissions are test optional, though high scores will matter for the Fellows programs and the larger merit scholarships. Scores are considered Important if they are submitted. Demonstrated interest, especially a campus visit, is also considered to be Important.
High Point is on an aggressive growth trajectory.
I have visited two other schools that have aggressively grown their student bodies as well as their undergraduate and graduate offerings: Quinnipiac University and Sacred Heart University, both in Connecticut near the Metro North commuter rail line. Quinnipiac grew in part by acquiring the University of Bridgeport Law School. Sacred Heart acquired General Electric’s former corporate campus. Both schools added high-demand majors, expanded experiential learning programs, built nice residence halls, offered student-centric dining and shopping and constructed opulent sports and recreational facilities. But their growth pales when compared to High Point.
High Point has grown from fewer than 1,600 students in 2005 to over 6,000 today.
High Point University has literally bought up its surroundings, including 1,200 houses, since 2005. Someone has to support that growth. So, the university solicits parents for donations and brings high profile executives and talent to campus to mingle with the students and raise the school’s public profile. The fundraising has put the school in a position to:
- Open schools of entrepreneurship, law, dentistry, nursing, optometry, pharmacy and health sciences
- Build a new residence hall that will also have an upscale Asian restaurant
- Upgrade the career development center and services
- Manage a health center run by a full-time physician
- Construct an arena and hotel/conference center
- Add over 1,200 parking spaces on campus
There are commitments to pay for the buildings and equipment. Also impressive, High Point University has an ‘A’ bond rating from Standard & Poors. However, the school had a fairly low ($124 million) endowment at the end of FY 2021. This was according to the public information supplied to the National Association of College & University Business Officers.
High Point is still an expensive school.
Direct charges will approach $66,000 for the upcoming academic year. Elon University, a common cross-shop, charges almost $7,000 less.
High Point’s marketing makes a point of mentioning Complementary Services. I’ll leave it to students and parents to decide if basketball tickets, concierge services and parking are worth the extra bucks. The other services are free at other schools. I dropped a photo of a concierge space below. High Point is also a “cashless campus.” Students fill and use a Passport Card to pay for anything on or near campus. However, the vendors set prices and the university charges them rent. You might be paying more for a latte here than you would near home. I would also imagine that the meals served at the university’s two upscale on-campus restaurants are far from free.
High Point University met full need for less than a fifth of its students, including just over a fifth of the freshmen, according to my US News College Compass. Over half of the Class of 2021 had to borrow to cover educational costs. The average loan indebtedness was over $50,000. There are some generous merit scholarships and the school is D-1 in 14 sports. But I recommend considering other schools if it looks like High Point will be a financial reach for your family. However, the school appears to work out when the costs work out. Nearly two-thirds of the undergraduate students in the classes of 2021 and 2022 graduated on time.
President Nido Qubein has driven the growth.
He is an incredible salesman and motivational speaker. You come away liking and respecting him after listening to him on a few YouTubes, including the weekly motivational talks that he delivers to the student body. President Qubein (pronounced Cue-bine) also teaches a mandatory large-lecture freshman seminar in communications and human relations skills..
I recommend that prospective students and their parents listen to President Qubein speak before applying to High Point. He and his wife, Mariana, drive the look, feel and culture of this school. High Point has no religious agenda, but it calls itself a God, County, Values school. Symbols of American patriotism and statues of heroes from American history are all around campus. The largest and most prominent community service events honored military veterans and Dr. Martin Luther King. These events are non-political and voluntary. They draw extremely well within the student body as well as their neighboring community.
The university, however, appears to lean towards Republican speakers when a politician is invited to speak. It hosted former President Donald Trump for a campaign rally in 2016. High Point, the city, is represented by a Democrat, Kathy Manning, in Congress, who has also hired interns from the school. However, no Democratic politician or political appointee has been a commencement speaker during Nido Qubein’s presidency although Rudy Giuliani, Clarence Thomas, Laura Bush, Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice have addressed past graduating classes. Bill Cosby was the commencement speaker in 2007 after women had come forward with sexual allegations against him. The university removed him from their Board of Advisors seven years later. High Point also appointed a law school dean who informally advised the former President Trump on 2020 election law challenges.
Nido Qubein’s marketing skills led High Point to brand itself as America’s Life Skills University.
But aside from the upscale on-campus restaurants and the president’s seminar, there are many very good colleges, public and private, that offer similar programs and services to help students to build their resumes and encourage them to take on volunteer leadership experiences. I have also been to schools where career centers hosted etiquette dinners at local restaurants. Many other schools are Bonner partners in community service, including three public colleges (Rutgers, Stockton and The College of New Jersey) in my home state.
High Point University has not marketed itself as the only school to offer such experiences, nor as the best school that offers them. But I have not been to another school that does a better job of reminding students and parents about the importance of taking advantage of them. I also doubt that another school outside of a major media market has brought as many high-profile business and media personalities to campus to deliver talks and interact with the student body.
Recent grads have been encouraged to stick around for a masters degree.
High Point promises that its most recent grads can earn a tuition-free masters in Communications and Business Leadership. This program teaches life skills that President Qubein covers in his public talks, specifically in marketing and organizational behavior. It might help a liberal arts or STEM major to gain some extra skills to help them get a job in a weakened economy. But it does not offer the analytics and finance courses that you get in an MBA.
Here’s my view of the High Point campus.
As High Point University acquired more and more land, I imagined that the leadership took trips to Elon and Wake Forest and marked down what they liked and disliked. High Point has a flat campus and fountains like Elon, but also curved roads to slow traffic, like Wake Forest.
Elon and Wake Forest have been at their existing locations since 1935 and 1956, but schools have architecture that can make one feel that the campus might be a century older. High Point’s architecture has similar facades, but also more modern, opulent interiors and grounds. If I distilled the campus down to residence halls, non-laboratory buildings and the hotel/arena/conference center, it would be a luxurious office park or corporate resort. But when I look at this campus from the air and see all the water, I wonder if the landscaping is a bit over the top.
The one building that I did not understand was the arena/hotel/conference center. The hotel/conference center is meant strictly for High Point to host major events. However, the basketball venue has only 5,000 seats. I had to wonder: why stop there? North Carolina is a basketball-crazy state. The university would benefit from a venue that would enable it to move into a higher-profile conference such as the Atlantic 10 or the Big East. High Point competes in the Big South, a lower-profile mid-major conference where the champion is not likely to get a high seed. If nothing else, more seats would better enable the university to host convocations, commencement and other large gatherings on rainy days.
Then there’s the housing price structure.
Virtually every High Point University student lives on campus unless they are studying away in the US or abroad. The university has some of the nicest residence halls that you will find anywhere. There are five first-year halls and six upperclass halls, apartments and houses. However, the advertised price on the undergraduate admissions page is over $19,000 for room and board next year. To lend perspective, that’s more than a freshman will be asked to pay at Boston University, a school that manages nice residence halls in a far more expensive urban area. However, while Boston University students have the city to explore, most of the social life at High Point will be on campus. A car is necessary if you want to shop off campus or trek to North Carolina beaches and mountains. If you come here, you’ll be glad that parking is free.
High Point’s housing charges rise further in tiers for first-year and continuing students. The university decides which housing will be in each tier, and it is the only housing market in town. Greek social life is fairly popular at High Point, engaging 20 percent of the men and 40 percent of the women. The university also owns their houses, and Greek life has additional costs.
It took some time for me to understand what High Point University is beyond the marketing and the pumped-up campus setting. While High Point University is trying to become more welcoming to a more diverse student body, its bread and butter targets are the B or better students and families who want more and are willing to spend more to get it. The business and communications programs have the “wow factor” to get many of those students, much like Elon’s programs do.
The health-related schools and buildings will be Nido Qubein’s real legacy, even though the communications school and the arena/hotel/conference center are named for him.The decisions to enter these new educational markets, especially in dentistry, optometry, pharmacy and health professions will result in a stronger student body as well as better retention and graduation rates. In addition, families that seek pathways into these fields and others such as the law are less price sensitive when shopping for higher education. These offerings will help to make the fiscal future of this school more secure.
High Point University has been a transformative experience for many students since Nido Qubein became president and it will continue to be for future students. The glitz will pull many new students in. However, the costs really need to work.
Report Card: High Point University
- Four-Year/Six-Year Graduation Rates: B+/B+
- Freshman Retention: B
- Costs: D
- Community: B+
- Curriculum: A
- Comforts: A
- Connections: (A: North Carolina/NYC/DC, C: elsewhere)
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