KSU targets better qualified students

Jenna Staul

Kent State is adopting a more aggressive strategy to attract out-of-state students as Ohio high school graduation rates continue to decline.

Kent State is adopting a more aggressive strategy to attract out-of-state students as Ohio high school graduation rates continue to decline.

The university’s marketing department has stepped up its presence in several specific regions of the country and will revamp its advertising campaign to lure more non-Ohio students to Kent State, said Iris Harvey, vice president of university marketing.

“There will be fewer and fewer high school graduates coming out of Northeast Ohio,” Harvey said. “And so a number of things we’re looking at is where else can we find students who have a tendency to leave home to go to school.”

They’re finding them in areas such as Pennsylvania, Washington DC, Maryland, Illinois and New York — states where the university plans to heavily advertise itself to potential students.

Three years ago, the university hired five additional admissions counselors to focus on bringing in students from those key states. Enrollment of out-of-state students jumped 14 percent over the last year, said David Garcia, vice president of enrollment management.

“The communication flow is a little bit different (when talking to out-of-state students),” Garcia said, adding counselors tend to focus on scholarship opportunities and the campus’ residential options with non-resident students.

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Garcia said by July, the admissions department and the undergraduate studies department will add a new position to coordinate alumni recruitment efforts out-of-state.

“It’s a greater personalization,” said Harvey, who described the university’s new marketing strategy as embracing a more specific analysis of students’ geographic region and background than it did in the past.

President Lester Lefton credits this new strategy with bringing in “higher-quality students” to Kent State. This year’s freshman class averaged both a higher high school GPA and composite ACT scores than in previous classes, with a GPA of 3.19, compared to last year’s 3.16, and an ACT score of 22.19, compared to last year’s 21.94.

“We are marketing, better, smarter with more of an emphasis on excellence,” Lefton said. “People are starting to recognize that Kent State is a great value. We’re trying to re-assert Kent State as a local, statewide and nationwide source.”

The university hired Columbus-based firm Fahlgren Advertising to launch its new ad campaign this spring, and production of the new TV spots will begin in the next few weeks, Harvey said.

“It will take a more emotional tone,” Harvey said. “More authenticity, probably including a first-person testimonial. I’d like to think more creative, hipper.”

Costs for increasing out-of-state TV and radio advertising have not yet been finalized, but Harvey said the university looks to continue to invest in more personalized contact with prospective students.

What will be noticeably absent from the new advertising push is the “Excellence in Action” slogan that the university took on three years ago.

“You probably won’t see that as our advertising tagline,” Harvey said. “I think it’s more a part of our internal excellence agenda.”

Contact administration reporter Jenna Staul

at [email protected].