Collaboration in Civic Spheres

WSU-Vancouver’s $130K promo blitz aims to up enrollment

by July 24th, 2012

Washington State University’s Vancouver, Wash. campus is seeking requests for proposals from marketing firms to help the school boost its overall campus population an ambitious seven to nine percent yearly through a direct campaign targeting prospective freshman. WSU classes in “America’s Vancouver” across the Columbia River from Portland, Ore. began in 1983 and WSU-Vancouver’s full facility opened in 1989 as “the urban research campus” of the WSU system. It had been focused on courses mainly for upperclassmen and a smaller cohort of graduate students until the 2005-06 school year.

Then it started admitting freshmen and sophomores, and began buying the first of 254,000 student names to date for marketing campaigns to prospective enrollees. Typically such lists are bought from companies offering standardized college admissions tests such as as the SAT and ACT to high-schoolers. Total spring 2012 enrollment at the Vancouver campus was 3,006 students, up gradually from 1,977 in spring 2006, according to online data from WSU.

In an RFP posted online and a related addendum answering questions from possible bidders, WSU says it “wishes to engage a qualified agency/vendor to prepare and conduct a direct marketing student search campaign to increase freshman enrollment” and that this will include “name purchases, messages, marketing, mail and email delivery, monitoring and reports, and analysis.”

The estimated budget is $130,000. Proposals are due this week, on July 27. A winning bidder is to be selected by August 6 and to start work after a scheduled August 21 “notice to proceed.”

In the RFP, the school accents that the southwest portion of the state continues to have “the most limited access to public higher education, while demand for college graduates remains strong.” WSU-Vancouver also states that its purpose in trying to recruit more students is not to feed transfer enrollment at the flagship campus in Pullman, Wash, home to about 18,200 students. Rather, the branch campus says in the RFP documents, that the new freshman recruitment campaign is to “grow the WSU Vancouver campus 7 to 9 percent year over year” in student population.

In the Q&A attachment, prospective bidders wanted to know the breakdown of enrollment at the Vancouver campus by student major and degree specializations. Liberal arts and “uncertified” predominate, followed by business, sciences, human development, engineering/computer sciences, nursing and education.

According to the RFP document, the winning vendor will need to have an established track record in similar direct marketing student search campaigns for schools akin to WSU-Vancouver.

WSU-Vancouver is a non-residential campus and draws most of its students from within 50 miles. More than nine of ten students there are Washington residents. The campus enrolls more students than either of the WSU branch facilities in Tri-Cities or Spokane. The WSU system also enrolls several thousand students in online distance learning programs and, as The Seattle Times has reported, will open a four-year campus of its own at an existing facility in Everett in 2014 that is currently operated by another institution.

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