Critics question accuracy of Kent State billboard campaign


A billboard for Kent State stands next to Interstate 76 on the east side of Akron on March 7. Photo by Brian Smith.

Christina Suttles

Kent State recently rented nearly 20 billboards as part of an advertising campaign to increase enrollment at the university. The $100,000 promotional advertisements are being considered by some to be misleading and even factually incorrect.

The billboards read: “Kent State. #1 in college graduates in Northeast Ohio.”

The promotion has received criticism from students and media outlets alike, claiming that it is either irrelevant or factually wrong.

“Is that a percentage or just based on pure quantity?” Richard Piaser, junior Pre-Economics major asked.

Kent State awarded 5,223 degrees and various certificates in the 2009-10 school year; making it first in quantity of graduates in the region.

Why should I care?

It’s important that you know where your tuition dollars are going.

You should be concerned about what your university officials are doing to promote the school that you associate yourself with.

“With more than 200,000 alumni with Kent State degrees, the university has produced the largest total number of graduates compared to any other public and private college and university in the region,” Kent State spokesperson Emily Vincent said in a press release.

The rate at which Kent State graduates its students, however, is an entirely different story.

The university ranks 10th in graduation rates throughout Northeast Ohio, according to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

The intended message of the billboard is to let the community know that the university produces the most graduates among universities in Northeast Ohio, Vincent said.

Though the statement is factually correct, many of the colleges that Kent State succeeds in number of graduates are smaller private schools with a lower student population, which many students claim makes the campaign frivolous and misleading.

“That isn’t anything to take pride in since we are the second largest campus system in the state,” an individual on Kent State Meme’s Facebook page said.

Other claims made by university officials have been proven entirely inaccurate.

“You make a big investment in an university education. And so we wanted people to know, that coming here, you are more likely to finish,” Vice President for University Relations Iris Harvey told TV2.

Federal data shows that only 49 percent of Kent State students aiming for bachelor’s degrees graduated within six years, which is one of the lowest graduation rates in Northeast Ohio.

Harvey was unable to be reached for clarification of her statement.

Many students are simply angry about the promotional tactics of the university.

“How about we stop overpopulating the freshman classes so we can focus more on education instead of enrollment numbers,” Kayla Marie, a justice studies major said.

Several other students said they feel as if their tuition dollars are being used to attract higher enrollment numbers, rather than promoting better education for the students who already attend the university.

Contact Christina Suttles at [email protected].