Lawrence Technological University: Increasing Enrollment and Changing Culture Through Athletics

Lawrence Technological University – Google Search Lawrence Technological University (LTU) was founded in Detroit, Mich. in 1932 as an engineering college and moved to Southfield, Mich. in 1955. After disbanding athletics completely in 1972, LTU re-instituted the program in 2010 and joined the NAIA. After one year as a member of the Association of Independent Institutions, LTU joined the Wolverine Hoosier Athletic Conference in 2012 and currently offers 24 teams covering 12 sports.

It was 2010 and Lawrence Technological University had a problem. Like many other colleges and universities, enrollment was dropping. The number of students living on campus was dwindling, perpetuating the belief that LTU was a commuter school. While LTU’s academics remained strong, it lacked the traditional campus atmosphere, making the recruitment of new students difficult.

The school needed a plan. Enter Scott Trudeau, then serving as assistant director of student activities. In this role he helped triple the number of LTU’s sport offerings in clubs and intramurals and believed reinstating varsity athletics would help break the downward enrollment trend. Fortunately, the school’s president and administration agreed.

Trudeau became the athletic director in 2010 and began planning which sports should be reinstated and when. LTU applied for and was granted NAIA membership.

“Lawrence Tech’s first priority has always been our students and that matches the NAIA’s values,” said Trudeau. “Plus, there are a lot of NAIA schools nearby and that makes for more exciting and better attended athletic events.”

The plan was progressing. But while the administration was on board, LTU faculty was more hesitant.

“It had been so long since Lawrence Tech offered athletics that most faculty had never had a student-athlete in class,” said Trudeau. “We were fighting the dumb jock stereotype and faculty believed the school’s academics would suffer.”

They were wrong.

The 3.18 average GPA for student-athletes is actually slightly higher than the general student population GPA of 3.1. Student-athletes also proved themselves leaders in the classroom and good stewards for the school.

“By the end of the first year, faculty members were requesting more student-athletes in their classes,” said Trudeau.

Athletics was also used to shed LTU’s image of a suitcase campus. It was decided early on that a student-athlete receiving any amount of athletic aid was required to live on campus.

“Once student-athletes started living on campus, LTU began to feel more like a traditional college,” said Trudeau. “Because of this, more non-student-athletes began opting for on-campus housing.”

An estimated 40 percent of the 850 students living on campus are student-athletes and construction is underway to add another 300 bed housing unit.

So how does a school go from zero to 24 teams in six years? Very strategically, according to Trudeau.

LTU started in 2010 with the four club sports that were already established – men’s ice hockey, women’s volleyball, men’s bowling, and men’s soccer. Next, they began adding sports for which the campus already had the facilities to support. These included men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country, women’s soccer, and men’s lacrosse. Those were the low hanging fruit.

When determining the next teams to add, multiple factors were considered including roster size, competition, ability to field a complete team, and travel schedule. Trudeau also emphasized the importance of full-time coaches when growing an athletics program at this pace.

“We don’t want to just get students in the door, we want them to stay,” said Trudeau. “Coaches need time to focus on recruiting the right student-athletes for our institution. When we do that well, retention is a much smaller issue.”

Now at 24 teams, LTU could certainly call it a day, but they’re not done yet.

After a 70 year hiatus, LTU will reinstate their football team in fall 2018. A school committee spent three years researching the possibility before a decision was made. Football will offer 24 scholarships and add 120-140 student-athletes. Based on the current enrollment numbers, football players would make up more than 10 percent of the student-body living on campus.

“Sports changed the school’s culture,” said Trudeau. “Now people know our mascot, alumni are excited, and people stay to watch games on the weekends. Football will just continue to increase this momentum. ”

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