Eastern Michigan University ad blitz promotes tuition freeze, has other colleges taking notice
South Bend Tribune
May 3, 2010
Billboards, radio, TV and Internet ads are blaring news about Eastern Michigan University's freeze on tuition, fees and dorm rates for the fall.
The $320,000 paid media blitz and a coordinated publicity campaign are part of the school's effort to make the gamble pay off, that increased enrollment can cover the cost of its "0-0-0" program.
Other schools are watching the Ypsilanti school's effort with a mix of admiration and anxiety. Squeezed between rising operating costs and falling state aid, the state's 15 public universities and 28 community colleges are fighting to attract and keep students whose own families are feeling the same economic pains.
"We watch what happens at our sister institutions," said Western Michigan University spokeswoman Cheryl Roland. She said Eastern Michigan's campaign was hard to miss when she recently visited the Detroit area.
"I did see Eastern's billboards in several locations," Roland said. "They're pretty plentiful — zero-zero-zero."
The campaign also involves ads on CNN, ESPN, MTV, TNT, 10 radio stations and on the Internet. And the school is promoting it heavily on its own Web site — as well as through the news media.
"This is increasing competition, and that is good," said Michael Boulus, executive director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan. "Eastern has taken a bold step. They will be looked at."
Eastern Michigan President Susan Martin said she has spoken with some of her peers about the freeze and its accompanying campaign. Among them was Daniel Little, chancellor at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.
"His question is like many others: 'How can you make the numbers work?'" Martin said.
The tuition freeze decision comes as Michigan legislators consider yet another reduction in state aid to higher education. The Republican-led state Senate has passed an early budget measure that would to cut payments to universities by 3.1 percent. Meanwhile, the state's jobless rate of 14.1 percent in March was the nation's highest, as it's been for four years.