Bovay’s Study Bar and Mercantile will open next week.
Bovay’s Study Bar and Mercantile will open next week.

     In a Wall Street Journal story published last month, higher-education reporter Douglas Belkin wrote about the symbiosis between small colleges and the small towns in which they thrive — or more aptly, strive.

     “As they struggle with falling enrollments and difficult finances,” Belkin wrote of the institutions, “they are realizing how their own futures are intertwined with the broader community.“

     It’s no secret that Ripon College has had to step up its admissions staff’s ingenuity, traditional marketing and technological tools to transform high school screenagers into incoming freshmen.

     Of course, Ripon’s not alone.

     Belkin cited U.S. Department of Education data that show that between 2009 and 2014, about 300 of America’s small-town, four-year colleges have experienced undergraduate enrollment declines.

     While schools may gain an edge through their faculty, curricula, facilities, poll rankings, alumni support, endowments and reputations, the article suggests that colleges are better positioned to succeed financially when their host cities are healthy.

    Ripon College hasn’t been passive is this area, either. ...

     The college’s presence downtown now is greater than ever. A new Ripon College initiative soon will be joining the president’s office in the old Carnegie building, the arts venue at 314 Watson St. and the pocket park Ripon College students, faculty and staff created on the west side of the 300 block.

     The college soon will fill part of the space recently vacated by Gallagher’s restaurant at the corner of Watson and Seward streets. It will utilize 329 Watson St., the side of the building adjacent to the busier-than-ever J’s BBQ, which opened downtown two months ago after first hanging out its shingle on Ripon’s west side in October 2014.

     Next week, Ripon College will begin unveiling “Bovay’s Study Bar and Mercantile,” a multi-use area that will feature a classroom, study area and performance space. ...

                                     — Tim Lyke     

     To read the entire editorial, including a description of what Bovay's Study Bar and Mercantile will contain, see the Jan. 12, 2017 edition of The Ripon Commonwealth Press.