U. Iowa ad campaign seeks more students, and money

Associated PressJuly 14, 2014 

— Iowans are going to hear, read and see a lot about the University of Iowa in the coming weeks.

The university is launching a marketing blitz Monday that will blanket the state with ads designed to reach potential in-state students and their parents. Iowans will see the school's pitches on their televisions, radios, computers and billboards, at airports, on the popular RAGBRAI bicycle ride this month and at the Iowa State Fair in August. Even a new hashtag — #TheUforIowa — will debut on Twitter to promote school's academics, research and service programs.

The launch marks a quick and aggressive response to a major policy change enacted last month by the Iowa Board of Regents, which governs Iowa and the state's two other public universities. The regents scrapped the state's longstanding policy for how nearly $500 million in state funds are divided between the three schools, and decided to link them to the number of in-state students enrolled.

If enacted immediately, the change would cut $47 million from the University of Iowa, which has seen instate enrollment decline over the last 30 years but heavy growth in the number of out-of-state and international students. That money would be shifted to Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa, where instate enrollments have increased.

But the regents are phasing the change in over three years to soften the impact. University of Iowa President Sally Mason and her aides have made clear they plan to change their recruiting strategies quickly to capture more in-state students.

University vice president Joe Brennan said the school is ready to expand its 31,000-enrollment by adding both in-state and out-of-state students after holding steady for years. The school, among the smallest in the Big Ten Conference, scrapped a growth strategy when a 2008 flood devastated campus and has focused instead on improving retention and graduation rates. With flood rebuilding nearing completion, the school is mapping out a plan on how many students it can add and in which programs, he said.

The "for Iowa" marketing campaign marks the first phase, he said, in which the school is essentially reintroducing itself to Iowa's 3.1 million residents and raising awareness about its programs.

"It's to remind everyone in Iowa that we're here for you and want to educate your children," Brennan said.

He said the ad campaign will be followed by a number of other recruiting changes, which include reinstating a practice of sending admissions counselors to every high school in the state every year. The school will start targeting high school students at a younger age and tailor its pitches more directly to an individual's academic interests, he said.

The school has also launched a search for a new administrative position — associate vice president for enrollment management — that will help oversee the strategy. And it is looking to hire an outside consultant to help with the planning, Brennan said.

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