Are Marketing Budgets All that Distinguish Florida’s Career and Community Colleges?

It’s no secret that for-profit institutions lavishly outspend their public counterparts in marketing. Just look out for their billboards along busy roadways, commercials airing on cable television, or prominent ads on popular websites.

This tends to cause general consternation among community college leaders, many of whom believe their institutions could just as easily serve students looking elsewhere for career advancement or retraining. So why — amid ever-increasing advertising blitzes by for-profit institutions — are some community colleges slashing their marketing budgets?

Officials at Brevard Community College, located along Florida’s Space Coast, say they don’t need any help attracting students, noting that the poor economy has done more than enough to boost the college’s enrollment — which has grown by a third in the past three years, to nearly 25,000. And now that NASA’s space shuttle program is being shuttered, the college expects to play a role in retraining most of the 9,000 local residents who will lose their jobs at the Kennedy Space Center.

With such a dramatic increase in its student population, Brevard cut its advertising budget by 62 percent – from $675,000 to $260,000 – this fiscal year. Among the changes, the college will take down six billboards, which cost about $60,000, and will stop running radio advertisements, which cost about $230,000. The college will, however, continue to advertise on television, using spots produced by its PBS station.

“We just really don’t believe it’s necessary to advertise at the levels we did in previous years,” says Kate Junco, college spokeswoman. “People know we’re here. We’ve pretty much saturated the market with ads. Now, we’re just doing smarter advertising with fewer dollars.”

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