The University of Idaho is trying out a third slogan in less than two years in hopes of stemming slumping enrollment.
But some students wonder if cash for the ad campaign couldn’t be better spent elsewhere.
“A Legacy of Leading” will replace the Moscow school’s current slogans of “No Fences” and “Open Space. Open Minds.”
Those short-lived taglines, complete with billboards on the sides of buses showing a person hopping a wire fence, were launched in late 2006 to replace “From Here You Can Go Anywhere.” At the same time, the university ditched its 35-year-old “starburst” symbol.
The new campaign will cost $900,000 this year, including $400,000 in state money and $500,000 from the private University of Idaho Foundation. The program also cost $900,000 last year. Three new 30-second television ads will air Nov. 17, in time for Idaho’s football game against Boise State University.
The UI, where enrollment has dropped over the past three years even as other schools in the region gained students, is trying to underscore its role as Idaho’s top research school. Still, some at UI have dubbed the changing parade of slogans as marketing schizophrenia and would rather the cash be used to improve academic offerings.
“They need to spend that money on different things, like scholarships and more financial aid for students,” said Luis Chavolla, a UI junior, told the Moscow-Pullman Daily News this week. “Instead of spending more money on marketing, why don’t they help the students who are already here?”
Wendy Shattuck, assistant vice president of marketing and strategic communication for UI, said the slogan was changed to reflect four areas where the university is trying to lead the state: academics, student experiences, graduate student success and research.
“We not only lead in the quality of students but also faculty,” she said. “We’re also highly productive and an internationally impactive research entity. We’re one of five recognized in the Northwest by the Carnegie Foundation.”
Over the past three years, fall enrollment at the University of Idaho has dropped more than 8 percent, though the slide slowed in 2007 to about 1 percent from a 5.9 percent drop in 2006. The school has 11,636 students.
Idaho State University reported a 4.2 percent gain in enrollment this year, which followed a 9 percent dip in 2006. Boise State University’s enrollment has risen for the last three years and seven of the last eight. And neighboring Washington State University in Pullman posted a 3.1 percent increase in enrollment statewide, to 24,396 students.
Bill Gilbert, the chairman of the UI Foundation board, said the advertising campaign won’t completely discard elements of the short-lived “No Fences” slogan era. Data collected on that campaign showed it was effective, but new studies indicate the focus on leadership “tests a little better,” Gilbert said.
“From the foundation’s perspective, we feel like the new campaign and new slogan speaks more to who we are as a university,” he said. “But it’s all sort of the same campaign, the creative tends to evolve. It’s an ongoing thing.”
So far, there appears to have been little outcry similar to what emerged when UI abandoned its starburst logo in 2006. Dumping that logo, an interlocking circle of five large yellow “U’s” linked by small “I’s,” prompted one student to post an online petition against it.
Information from: The Moscow-Pullman Daily News, http://www.dnews.com
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