Marketing strategies amidst budget cuts

A study from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reported that nationally, undergraduate enrollment dropped 3.1 percent in fall 2021, compared with Fall 2020. Among falling enrollment as well as looming budget cuts at UCO, what is marketing doing to bring more students in? 

The Vista spoke to Adrienne Nobles, vice president for communications and public affairs at UCO about current strategies.

“Everything that we do is geared towards recruitment and retention,” Nobles said, as “even that’s just general branding awareness, things that we do, because that is to make more people in the metro aware of UCO and our activities so that even if they don’t have a college-age student in their household, or they themselves have already earned degrees that they could, you know, recommend to anyone or think positively or favorably about the institution just to be aware of it.”

Currently, UCO primarily advertises “on a digital platform,” Nobles said, “because that’s where most people are right now.”

Nobles said that higher education is an “extremely competitive market.”

Regarding other forms of marketing, UCO is “focusing our advertising either in the Oklahoma City metro or statewide,” though sometimes the university will advertise regionally, especially 

before the pandemic, sending recruiters to “surrounding states like Texas, Arkansas,” to do short campaigns at schools out-of-state, Nobles said.

Targeting the message based on area and other specific factors “kind of keeps the cost manageable, because you’re being very savvy about who you’re targeting. And being sure that you’re reaching your audience in an effective way,” Nobles said.  

After receiving the allocation for advertising from the university, “sometimes it’s hard to say, like, oh, we’re going to budget $2,500 for this social media campaign, you may or may not spend all of that $2,500 depending on what’s going on with the competition for that audience,” Nobles said, calling it “not an exact science.”

The ability to see engagement on individual ads is an advantage to online advertising, Nobles said.

“We’ll try two different campaigns, maybe one with a video one with a photo and see which one performs better. And then when you have enough data to say this one is getting more engagement, we’ll put more of our time and effort and resources behind the one that’s getting the better engagement,” Nobles said.

Marketing is “working closely with other departments on campus to coordinate our advertising, activities and our messages with what you know is reality”, Nobles said. 

“And the fortunate thing is, is that I think we have a lot of wonderful things that are happening here at UCO,” Nobles said, “We have students who are doing wonderful things and who are earning degrees and getting super jobs and excelling in their lives and can speak positively about their experience here. We have professors that are doing great work and the relationships that our students build with their professors is special, and it’s not that way at every institution. And so that’s something that we use as a selling point.”

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