Lumina Launches Million Dollar Community College Challenge
Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation has announced a national grant competition to help community colleges improve on brand building and marketing. The Million Dollar Community College Challenge aims to help colleges to connect with adult students who need a college degree or short-term credential. Lumina says it wants to hear from colleges that know it takes more than “throwing money at marketing activities” to attract students.
During a media conference call, Lumina Director for Community College Participation Shauna Davis explained the focus on branding.
“There’s been lots of work being done in this ecosystem around student success initiative, policy and removal of barriers to education. But one of the areas that wasn’t getting enough attention is how community colleges are communicating both externally and internally. How they are positioning their brands and marketing efforts to gain the attention of adults who have competing life demands,” said Davis.
She says adults are education consumers, meaning they have the choice to decide which institution they will attend, if at all. Davis says open access and lower tuition may not be enough to attract the student.
Lumina is seeking to discover what those potential students think about community colleges and if they believe the branding pitched to them.
“The four-year colleges and universities have been engaged in the brand positioning race for years. Due to historic underfunding, community colleges have often not had the resources to launch sophisticated brand building and marketing efforts,” explained Davis.
The challenge is open to any two-year institution, across the country, that has a vision for re-igniting its brand. Lumina will host informational webinars on February 22 and 23 for potential candidates. The initial application is due March 15.
From there, a team of brand marketing experts and higher education professionals will narrow the applicant pool to 10 finalists.
The finalists will meet with consultants who will help guide the schools on the creation of a video submission to explain their college brands.
In August, the winning college will be awarded $1 million, but all finalists will receive something.
“Although we’re awarding one $1 million grant, we will also award nine $100,000 grants to other finalists. In addition, all the colleges in the final round will receive technical assistance,” said Mary Laphen, Lumina’s strategy officer for community college participation.
Davis says the campaign is not about giving a school money to buy advertising time with local media, but rather to guide them to improving the brand.
“The goal here is that they’re really telling the community about who they are, and what they have to offer…and take a holistic look at telling the story.”
Click here to learn more about the challenge.