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Gateway Seeks to Break Through Region's Duplications, Sees Return on Marketing Investment

Gateway Community & Technical College is working to find its place in Northern Kentucky, a region long-plagued by duplication of services.
At the college's first board of directors meeting since the new academic year began last month, Gateway president Fernando Figueroa offered a report that included details that he has met with the Covington Business Council and the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, relative to exploring appropriate programming and course offerings for the region.
Figueroa said that with too many local agencies doing the same thing, it is important to avoid duplication.
"This region has a lot of resources," Figueroa stated during last week's meeting in Covington. "We have a coherent strategy to make this work for the city."
Board member Joseph Creaghead said that he wanted to see the school narrow its focus.
Communications director Michelle Sjogren reported on the new brochures used to promote the college that now list all the programs in the various departments. Board members also now have a one-page list of facts about the college that can be used when questions arise about Gateway, or when they speak to groups. Sjogren said that the best advertisement for the college is student testimonials.
Current projects underway include an improved website with better language and layout to make it easier for prospective students and families to navigate. So far, the effort is paying off, Sjogren said.
Visitors to the website are spending less time there, according to analytics, because the information being sought is found faster.
An improved information form has also shown positive results. Sjogren said that 624 people filled out the form and that 175 eventually applied for admission. 26 ultimately enrolled. Sjogren called that "a great return on our investment of time."
The college's $100,000 communication budget has been nearly exhausted on a variety of advertising opportunities, with an emphasis on social media outlets like Facebook to reach high school and college students.
Recent reviews of social media ad campaigns show some results, Sjogren said.
"Among the high school students, we had 960 clicks, and for college students we had 1,300 clicks on our ads," said Sjogren. "What we netted for enrollment is 51 filled-out forms, 35 applied, and 19 actually enrolled."
Board member Jeff Groob questioned the effectiveness of spreading the advertising money out to cover several bases, and suggested that the college should concentrate its money on one source instead. He also said that the college should hire an ad agency. Sjogren said that Gateway was not permitted to hire an outside agency and that internally, the staff is pleased with the results.
"This is the first time you've seen any return on investment," she said.
Additionally, Dr. Figueroa referred to a statement he gave onthe Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which President Donald Trump ordered Congress to take formal action on, creating unease among non-citizens that have benefitted from the Obama-era policy. Figueroa encouraged all people to apply to Gateway.
"In light of the recent announcement by Attorney General Jeff Sessions regarding DACA,we want our college and our community to know that Gateway is proud to serve a diverse student body, including immigrants who are working toward a better life for themselves and their families," he said in the statement. "Community colleges were founded nearly 100 years ago on the concept of social justice and providing affordable education for all.  Over the years, students from all walks of life have enjoyed increased access to post-secondary education, largely through the doors of community and technical colleges.  Our role is to ensure everyone has the opportunity to succeed."
Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor
Photo: Michelle Sjogren presents to the Gateway board of directors (RCN)