I now have the chance to get back to in-person visits. So, I dropped by to see my friend, Bryn Campbell, who recently became Director of Undergraduate Admissions at Cabrini University. Located in Radnor, Pennsylvania, a close suburb to Philadelphia, Cabrini is a small school with about 1,500 undergraduates.
The Mansion (photo up top) was the original and only campus building when Cabrini was founded in 1957. It was the former estate of John Thompson Dorrance, the inventor of condensed soup, later president of the Campbell Soup Company. This is considered Cabrini’s signature building, but I felt that the Iadarola Center for Science, Education, and Technology (below) fills that role better today.
The Iadarola Center is a multi-purpose building that offers collaborative and laboratory spaces used by students in several majors as well as the nursing simulation room for patient care and home care settings (both below).
Quite often when I make college lists I see requests for schools with connected campuses close to a major city. Cabrini’s campus is wooded, secluded from noise and traffic. The university has housing for nearly 1,000 students. The newer halls are quite nice, and there have been some nice renovations to older halls, though apartment-style living is more limited than rising seniors might like. However, Radnor is a town along Route 30 on ‘The Main Line’ to Philadelphia, where off-campus apartment living will be quite expensive.
I picked up this week’s copy of The Loquitor, the student newspaper (below). There were two articles about Cabrini being a “suitcase school,” and one about how rising gas prices would impact commuters. This should change as the community moves further from pandemic conditions. Mask requirements had ended less than a week before my visit.
I recommend reading The Loquitor if you visit Cabrini. This is one of the better school papers that I have seen at a small school and its content has won several awards. It also has over 4,500 online readers each week, triple the print run on campus.
Campus news coverage aside, Cabrinians venture into nearby Wayne, which has a very nice downtown with dining options for college students and the school is close to King of Prussia Mall, one of the largest shopping centers in America. The SEPTA train ride from Wayne is only 40 minutes into Center City and students can get discounts to pay only five bucks for the trip! Of the more than 13,000 Cabrini alumni registered in LinkedIn.com, nearly 8,800 live and work in and around the Philadelphia area. This is also going to be the market for most internships, although seven Fortune 500 firms have offices in Radnor.
It’s quite easy to combine a business or communications program with a liberal arts major or minor. The university also offers 4+1 options where undergrads can take graduate courses at undergrad rates during their senior year. Unlike other schools I have visited that have a Catholic affiliation, Cabrini requires only one course in religion. The core curriculum, Justice Matters, has a three-year requirement in community service and social justice. This is addition to general education and skill development courses that you would also find at an independent (non-religious) college. You won’t see large classes here. Nearly 80 percent have fewer than 20 students; virtually none had more than 50.
The business programs are the most popular, followed by education. Virtually every pre-professional major has a capstone or experiential (work in the real world) requirement. Education majors get a “pre-service” experience in the classroom in their sophomore year, observe classes in their junior year near campus, in the university’s lab school or in the partnership with a school in Naples, Florida. They can also earn masters degrees online after they complete their bachelors and get into the classroom. There is even a mock elementary school classroom (below) on campus!
Given the regional nature of the university and its largest target markets, just over half of the class admitted in 2019 was first-generation college students. Over half of the current student body is men and women of color. The university has a long-range goal to become a Hispanic Serving Institution. This community takes community service quite seriously outside of the classroom, logging in over 25,000 hours each year, even during the pandemic
Cabrini is a rare school that can maintain strong outreach into a large urban community, a large business community and a large Catholic community. It also appears to be more interested in responsiveness vs. rankings, interacting with C-level corporate executives as well as professionals in varied fields. Diversity and inclusion are also important around the formation of living-learning communities (LLCs) around academic, service and social interests. The vast majority of freshmen are in LLCs.
The average GPA for the most recent data that I could find was just over a 3.1. While the university has been test optional for some time, the average SAT (1040) and average ACT (21) are not exceptionally high. The most recent acceptance rate posted was 62 percent and a third of the students come from outside Pennsylvania. I measure a good college by how well it educates the students that it attracts. Based on a hard number–76 percent freshman retention–Cabrini University could do better. But as more students take part in on-campus activities post-pandemic and engage in living learning communities this situation should improve. The pandemic has changed how prospective college students and parents in all markets value a college education.
It is considered most often vs. Immaculata University and Neumann University, two Philadelphia suburban schools with Catholic affiliations that offer a similar mix of majors . Cabrini is also considered vs. larger public schools such as UDel, West Chester University and Rowan University. The experience is going to be much more personal at the smaller schools. But if you’re considering Cabrini vs another Catholic college, compare the religiosity of the schools as well as the campus, community and the academics. Each will have a unique personality and have different strategies to bond a community. Cabrini does this through community service and the learning communities. I also felt that the university did it through athletics. The university competes in 19 D-III (non-scholarship) varsity sports, the most successful being Men’s Lacrosse and Men’s and Women’s Swimming. The lacrosse Cavaliers were D-III National Champions in 2019.
The estimated total cost of attendance for this year is just under $50,000. That includes direct charges (tuition and fees, room and board), books and an estimate for personal expenses such as clothing, entertainment and transportation. Cabrini is also the only school in Pennsylvania to partner with TheDream.US to provide scholarships for DREAMers and undocumented students. That’s appropriate, given that the school is named for Sr. Frances Xavier Cabrini, patron saint of immigrants and hospital administrators.Pennsylvania is one state where small private colleges might undercut Home State U to attract better students. Cabrini appears to compete quite well on costs against Home State U as well as Neighboring State U, unique for a small private college.
Cabrini checks off many boxes for college-going students and their parents. It does the little things that a small college should do to make incoming students feel welcome and wanted, that are “Cabrinian.” The university also keeps the academics, including curriculum, equipment and facilities, up to date, which is very hard to do. The same is true for residence life, athletics and fitness.
If you are familiar with the Philadelphia area and want a small school that can help you make good connections, Cabrini University might be your school. But you must buy into the community as well as the education.
Listen to my talk, College Is A Learning AND Living Community, hosted by Dr. Cynthia Colon from Destination YOUniversity on Voice of America Radio!
Listen to my talk, What Exactly Is a Good College? hosted by test-prep experts Amy Seeley and Mike Bergin on Tests And The Rest!
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