Student enrollment stabilizes with new marketing plans

By Kyle Honea

City College’s marketing plan has halted the downward spiral of student enrollment that reduced the college’s numbers by more than 20 percent in the last eight years.

Accompanied by Interact Communications, a research company which targets individuals qualified to enroll, the college has spent the last year strategizing for departments with high growth prospects such as automotive, foreign languages, cinema and LGBT studies.

“I can get them [students] interested but once they do that, they are in the arms of the college,” CEO of Interact Communications Pamela Cox-Otto said,

The college has focused its efforts on a five-year enrollment growth plan. The goal is to increase the average class size from 24.2 to 34.2.

City College is not the only college which has been affected these last few years. As the economy has boomed in the Bay Area, City College and other community colleges have suffered a drop in enrollment.

“When the economy goes up, community college enrollment goes down. Eight out of the 10 community colleges (in the Bay Area) are on stability funding, meaning their enrollment has dropped,” City College Marketing Director Jeff Hamilton said.

Marketing tactics used to boost enrollment included radio and television ads, transit shelter ads, billboards and YouTube pre-roll ads.

The plan now calls for autobiographical narrations as well to allow students an opportunity to tell about their own experiences at City College. Diversity is the deciding factor when it comes to choosing which students get to tell their college story.

“The marketing efforts have two layers,” Hamilton said. “The first layer is a general audience campaign to tell the world in an untargeted fashion that we are City College. Here’s what we are about and that we’d like to have you here. The other layer is targeting campaigns.”

Illustration by Auryana Rodriguez
Illustration by Auryana Rodriguez

Email blast campaigns target returning students, dropouts and students who have applied without yet registering for classes. The college is also focusing on adult demographics which include students between the ages of 18 and 25 years old.

City College has set up new degrees, certificates and other classes that help students build targeted skills required for specific jobs. There have also been efforts made to reach out to San Francisco high school students.

It is both promoting specific departments and reaching out to specific demographics through its ads. Simultaneously, other departments are taking enrollment into their own hands by solely reaching out to students who have reason to be interested.

Faculty and department chairs decide on new certificates like those in game development and visual media design. Enrollment numbers and the needs of specific classes are two factors considered when coming up with new certificates and programs.

“There are a lot of new programs and certificates we are developing,” chair of the Enrollment Management Plan Carole Meager said.

These programs are designed to generate interest in these departments and ultimately increase enrollment.

The college’s Board of Trustees and its faculty union, AFT 2121, are also promoting Supervisor Jane Kim’s proposal for free City College tuition that would help increase student enrollment. The proposition will be voted on in November.