(image credit: CBS)

In modern day society, advertising is a recurring phenomenon that people experience daily. Sometimes an advertisement possesses considerable entertainment value due to getting its product message across to make someone desire said product, making it an attractive venture for businesses.

Tim Calkins, a professor of marketing and creator of the Kellogg Super Bowl Advertising Review at the Kellog School of Management at Northwestern University in Chicago, provided some light on how an event such as the Super Bowl can provide companies with a tremendous opportunity to showcase their products.

“The Super Bowl is more and more unique, as media is fragmenting, and there are more and more media properties vying for people’s attention.”

However, when it comes to education, the scenario is a bit different. While there’s no harm or evil in a school advertising one or all of its programs, the problem is that seeking national attention can have considerable consequences.

John Katzman, a writer for insidehighered.com, highlights the consequences.

“Critics are missing the real arms race in higher education: a new student-recruitment spending war that is orders of magnitude more expensive and ends in only higher tuition rates for students- with none of the fun and relaxation.”

Katzman goes in depth to explain how heavy investment in marketing by higher education institutions can cause subsequent higher tuition rates.

“In the past decade, colleges moved their degree programs online, eliminating physical constraints entirely. With the limitless scaling potential of online learning, nonprofit institutions have brought more and more programs online. However, this access is creating a massive problem: those lower costs allow colleges to spend more on marketing, and the new competition forces them to spend more.

As nonprofit marketing budgets start to look like those of the for-profits, the annual recruiting spending of American colleges will move inexorably from its current $10 billion to $100 billion a year.”

If one is willing to read between the lines, then it’s easy to see that raising tuition rates will be seen as practical and necessary by institutions engaging in heavy marketing campaigns to keep up with the enormous expenditures entailed by a campaign. Ethical concerns are also raised as well.

Granted, nonprofit institutions are either accredited by the United States Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), making the derogatory term “diploma mill” an inaccurate one to use as the degree earned isn’t useless. Only advertising an institution’s online program while subtly putting the tiny text “on-campus” at the end of a fifteen second ad mainly advertising an online program, however, unfortunately unleashes two disheartening scenarios.

What these institutions don’t realize is that the use of this tactic essentially makes it seem that the purpose of the online program is to give a degree out to a nontraditional student, while having funds received from anyone that goes into the online program be used towards sustaining the campus. Unfortunately, this causes an online program to essentially appear as subservient to the campus program. This would suggest that the real purpose of the online program is to provide the institution with a reliable source of funds to invest into the main campus program, which is traditionally seen in a more favorable light by employers than an online program.

As for the second scenario, the constant advertisements shown essentially decreases the value of the school. For this scenario, the type of value that will be analyzed is value in the sense of reputation. To be specific, when an online program is constantly advertised either nationally or globally, only the online program will be known.

This might not cause anxiety to some, but one shouldn’t have to worry about the possibility about proving that they actually went to a campus in the first place. Competition for jobs is fierce enough that having to make it clear to an employer that the campus exists and gave its attendees a well-rounded education is an unnecessary obstacle.

In short, advertising is great for business but not necessarily for education. Education is meant to be something greater than business that caters more to the pursuit of virtue instead of profit. Programs, opportunities, the student body, athletics, reputation, a rigorous curriculum and location are what will establish the effective advertising of a true nonprofit university, not a fifteen second television advertisement.

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