'Cheeky, not preachy' graduation ads prove surprisingly effective

University of Akron gives boost to students taking a full course load

The University of Akron (UA) has taken an unusual approach to promoting on-time graduation—intentionally cheesy infomercials—but the craziest part is that it's working, the Beacon Journal reports.

The videos are part of the university's Finish In Time (F.I.T.) program, which urges students to take at least 15 credit hours per semester so they can graduate in four years. The main message is simple: taking 15 credits is the same price as taking 12, but avoids losing out on wages by delaying graduation.

The style, however, is over-the-top, mimicking quotable infomercials that sell everything from Snuggies to OxiClean. They even feature the ubiquitous "as seen on TV" banners the format is known for. The videos can be found on YouTube and have been sent to students via email.

“It’s a serious topic, but we wanted to do something to get the attention of the audience we were going to," says Wayne Hill, UA’s associate VP of marketing, adding, "we went for cheeky, not preachy."

The videos appear to be working. Since last year, 28% more full-time, first-time students are taking a 15-credit course load.

UA increased its efforts to promote on-time graduation after Ohio moved to performance-based funding that rewards schools for higher graduation rates. Around that time, UA saw its own four-year graduation rate fall to around 40% and decided to promote timely graduation.

Today, the school says 50% of freshman students are on track to graduate in four years.

How well do liberal arts degree completion programs work?

As a result of these and similar efforts, the Akron metro area recently won a $1 million award from the Talent Dividend Network for improving graduation rates by 20% over the past three years (Armon, Akron Beacon Journal, 10/23; Armon, Akron Beacon Journal, 10/29).

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