What My Alma Mater Doesn't Understand

This might come off as harsh, but it's about time I start being more forthright about Cincinnati Christian University. I love the school immensely; I have two degrees from there, was employed by the school for 2.5 years, and was President of its Alumni Association. Despite any disagreements I might have with certain aspects of the school, I continue to be dedicated to its ministry and mission. That being said, let me show where they're not getting it right.

As I opened up the Enquirer's webpage this morning to check out what's happening in the city, this is what I see:

Nice little banner ad at the top there. As my wife was driving to work on Tuesday, she got behind a bus with a CCU ad on it [sure, it was a lame reference to "Deal Or No Deal" but noticeable advertising nonetheless]. There are also numerous billboards located around town selling the merits of our humble Bible college.

This is a huge step up. When I worked in recruiting there, our advertising budget was limited to what I could photocopy on a 8.5 x 11 piece of paper. I constantly had to tell people that we weren't a seminary for priests. So the branding effort enacted over the past few years is working. Enrollment is at an all-time high.

But what do you do once you get the people enrolled and on campus. How do you treat them?

Seth Godin had an interesting post about this today, reflecting on an experience he had with his small town's city council. The part that stuck out to me was this assertion:

"People don't renew or cancel their cell phone service because of the ads (the ads that might have gotten them to sign up in the first place.) They do it based on the service and the way it makes them feel. And people don't vote to re-elect a candidate because of her debate performance or speeches."

Back to CCU. Enrollment is up and that makes it appear that things are better. But I've heard of many horror stories from current students that they don't have the support staff to handle the increased number of students. They can't get access to their financial aid or registration info. So while more people are coming to campus than ever before, does it help the overall image of the school if they have a horrible experience? Of course not. Actually, it's even worse because you've opened up new avenues in which you name can be defamed.

My solution: I'd prefer that they now scale back the advertising campaign and use the remaining funds to work on infrastructure. Add enough staff to facilitate the enlarged student body in order to give them the best college experience they could imagine. Then you create happy alumni base that will do your advertising for you. That's where long term success is built.

I don't write this to open up a bash fest on my college. I know such a post will invite many people to unleash their "CCU sucks" rants. I'd rather you not. While the school does have its flaws, its still a great place that God is using in a powerful way to affect the world. I just have to call it as I see it.

Anyone can put butts in seats, especially if you dump enough money into advertising. But its what you do once you get them there that makes all the difference.