The Stephen F. Austin State University Board of Regents heard a report from the agency in charge of the university's marketing campaign and approved an extension of the campaign for the next fiscal year.
During the board's annual spring meeting, the Richards/Carlberg agency reported that a variety of metrics show the campaign is having the desired effect - attendance at Showcase Saturday events has increased, applications are up 8 percent as compared to this time last year, and both admitted students and housing applications are up 14 percent.
"While these numbers look great, we know that we have to wait until the 12th class day this fall to be able to call this a success with certainty," said Chuck Carlberg, principal of the Richards/Carlberg agency.
The current goal for the campaign is an increase of 300 new students for fall 2015.
Digital advertisements on more than 400 desktop and mobile websites such as Facebook, Pandora and YouTube have provided viewers with more than 8 million impressions of SFA advertising this spring. "These ads have garnered 50,592 clicks to the landing page, and thousands of viewers have gone on to visit another SFA page, such as 'areas of study,' 'become a student,' or 'apply now,'" Carlberg said.
Impressions resulting from the combined spring and fall campaign exceed 27 million views.
The campaign recently received numerous awards from the Higher Education Marketing Report's 30th annual Educational Advertising Awards, including four gold awards: total integrated marketing campaign, total digital marketing program, social media and outdoor transit/billboard.
Regents approved extending the campaign through the 2015-2016 academic year, including fall and spring branding and enrollment campaigns and continued work on the SFA website redesign project, at a cost not to exceed $1.6 million.
Regents approved increases in room and board rates, as well as designated tuition and student service fees for the upcoming academic year. The designated tuition rate will increase from $171 to $185.50 per semester credit hour, and the student service fee will increase from $12 to $12.50.
"We are in the process of developing a strategic plan for the university, and certain institutional initiatives will require revenue support," said Danny Gallant, vice president for finance and administration. "We do keep an eye on what other institutions are doing, and with these new rates, we are still in the position where we need to be relative to our peers."
Course and lab fees were approved by the regents to provide instructional departments with the funds necessary to support the actual cost of consumable supplies, service and travel related to specific courses.
Regents approved a 2 percent increase in room rates and a 2.9 percent increase in board rates. A portion of the proceeds from housing will be designated for an improvement to the wireless network.
"By today's standards, the wireless network we installed just a few years ago is becoming overwhelmed," said Dr. Steve Westbrook, vice president for university affairs. "At that time, it was typical for there to be one wirelessly connected device between every couple of people; today that ratio has changed to almost three devices per person."
Incoming SFA students who want to have more predictability in paying for college can make use of a fixed-rate designated tuition plan. Regents approved a rate of $213 per credit hour for first-time freshmen with no previous college enrollment entering the university during the 2015-2016 academic year. The rate applies for up to 12 semesters from the point of initial enrollment.
"We currently have more than 1,550 students enrolled in a fixed-rate plan," Gallant said. "This is intended to provide price-increase protection and also encourages a more timely graduation rate for these students."
Regents approved the university's participation in the Student Success Collaborative provided by the Education Advisory Board Academic Affairs forum, a nationwide network of colleges and universities that works with research and data specialists to identify best practices and improve educational offerings and opportunities.
"The Care Coordination Platform allows us to use data to improve retention and graduation rates," said Dr. Richard Berry, provost and vice president for academic affairs. "It's a valuable tool for our academic advisers and other staff members who focus on student success."
Regents authorized the university to refinance bonds to obtain a more favorable rate, when possible, and to utilize unspent tuition revenue bond proceeds for renovation projects that were initially funded with Higher Education Fund or designated funds.
Additionally, regents approved:
- Summer budget,
- Grant awards,
- Outdoor pool renovation budget increase,
- Replacement of the floor in the William R. Johnson Coliseum,
- Curriculum changes,
- Additional licensing agreements for the Purple Pride plum tree,
- Audit services report, and
- Policy revisions.