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UDC unveils largest-ever ad campaign

This week, the University System of the District of Columbia launches "the most aggressive effort in the history of the university to promote itself," according to Alan Etter, university spokesman. The series of print, broadcast and online ads is designed to highlight the substantial changes at UDC, which split into separate two- and four-year institutions this school year, as well as improve the school's image in the community. And to raise enrollment.


Here is a brief Q & A with Etter.

1. What is the purpose of this new campaign?

Now that we have created the University System, it is time everybody is made aware of what's going in DC's State University. The purpose, obviously, is to increase enrollment. We are trying to reach that goal by raising the profile of the institution and educating the public about all the exciting programs offered through the community college and the four year flagship UDC, including the David A. Clarke School of Law.

2. What is its scale -- how much is being spent, and on what kinds of ads, where?

You saw the first ad yesterday [Monday] on the Fed Page of the Washington Post. We are following that up with supporting print ads in the Northwest Current, the Washington Informer, the Washington Hispanic and others. We are also doing a significant amount of online and broadcast advertising, including program sponsorship on NPR and TV and cable business. A Metro bus and rail campaign starts next month.

Yesterday's ad was the first of a three part layered campaign. The first is a very 'corporate' feeling ad that features the face of this transition - Dr. Allen Sessoms, the school's president - speaking about 'vision'. The next wave will be a 'commuter' type of ad that features Metro riders with thought bubbles indicating they're all talking about various programs. And the third will be a "UDC graduates - Real Life Success" theme, which will feature actual graduates who've gained success in their chosen fields.

We are working with a local agency in a program that totals near $400,000 (small by local ad standards, which is why we are trying to be as focused and direct as possible).

3. Which programs at UDC are well-known to the general public, and which are not?

What I've found is there are some tremendous programs within UDC and the community college, but nobody knows about them. They've never been aggressively marketed. When you think about college in Washington, DC, you immediately think of some of the great private schools here. And they are great - but very costly. What we offer at USDC is the same programs - but at a price that anyone can afford. It costs generally about $5,100 for a full time student per year, compared to nearly ten times that amount at other institutions.

The David A. Clarke School of Law is consistently rated among the best public interest law schools in the country. The new community college has been extremely well-received in its first year of operation. Some programs in the four year UDC, like some art courses and mortuary science, have waiting lists to get in.

So - our 'niche', if you will, might revolve around the affordability of the same education in programs that are very well respected.

4. Some of the poor public perception of UDC is grounded in statistical fact -- low graduation rates and such. What measures of improvement do you see?

Well, I don't know if those marks are in and analyzed yet, but I can tell you the solutions that are in place make sense, and we are hopeful the impact will be positive. Part of the reason for the low graduation rate has been that UDC was receiving students who just weren't ready for college. They needed serious remediation. The community college, which began last August, is the repository for those students.

What you also had was a four year college that had no admission standards - so anyone could come. Your ability to do college coursework was very limited coming out of the public schools - and you were coming into a real college atmosphere - so you were almost destined to fail. UDC now has admission standards - we only take students who can perform and who are serious about performing academically. The community college offers remedial training. It will take some time for those numbers to improve, but we are confident that we're on the right track now.

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By Daniel de Vise  |  March 9, 2010; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  Administration , Community Colleges , Marketing , Publics  | Tags: UDC, marketing  
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Posted by: RosyHaize | March 10, 2010 3:31 AM | Report abuse

Good for UDC. DC sorely needs a community college system for people who are not prepared for a four-year school. With higher admission standards, over time UDC may build a good national reputation and attract students from all over the world willing to pay out-of-state tuition.

Posted by: aspe4 | March 10, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Ditto, aspe4. UDC always seemed to be trying to do too much with too little. A good city community college was desparately needed for District residents (arguably more than a university). Hopefully now the main campus in Van Ness can now target its efforts and energies on building stronger programs for those who can meet more stringent entry qualifications and increase its poor graduation rate.

Posted by: nvamikeyo | March 10, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Trying to improve the image of UDC might be an exercise in futility. Good students will be hard to attract to UDC when excellent private schools with top-notch reputations exist.

Posted by: cricket35 | March 10, 2010 9:56 PM | Report abuse

Good step for UDC. UDC has always relied on the word of mouth to market the university instead of having a strong strategic marketing plan. Even though I disagree with the hasty creation of a community college since UDC always had remedial programs (Just like Strayer, Trinity, Bowie State, etc) available for students who needed remediation, I think this ad campaign will have a positive effect on enrollment.

Maybe the University will actually step up to the 21 century and implement a comprehensive distance learning program which I'm sure will help with graduation rates instead of just opening buildings that will just increase admin cost.

Posted by: DCReddz | March 11, 2010 9:01 AM | Report abuse

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