Why doesn’t the CSU have TV commercials?

I saw this ad and it made me want to go to the University of Phoenix and get an MBA.  No kidding.  In public higher education we’ve admitted for a while that the for-profits have us beat on student service — they do.

For the sake of argument, let’s set aside last June’s disturbing revelations about financial aid and student indebtedness.  I think there’s no question that nearly unlimited public guarantees of student loans led to abuses, similar to those that sank the mortgage industry and pulled the rest of us down with it.  Set aside too the fishy incentives to recruiters, and an oddly top-down approach to curriculum.

What’s left is a student-service orientation that we could learn from, and — I think less often recognized — a canny use of marketing that adds perceived value to the degree.

We in the publics toss off our degrees like they’re bagels.  We’ve done such a good job of promoting access and welcome that we convinced our students and often ourselves that what we offer is unremarkable.  Do it now, or do it later, when you can get around to it.  Come in fully prepared and ready to work hard from day one, or don’t.  Go out and change the world.  Or not.  We’ll welcome you either way.

Somehow we need to keep low the barriers to entry, but encourage high aspiration, and a sense of specialness to those who get in — so we’ll present college as purposeful, valuable, and worth seeing all the way through.   The way this ad does.


4 thoughts on “Why doesn’t the CSU have TV commercials?

  1. This is a good ad but from the learning design perspective I wish there were clips like these but with something more meaty than “surrounded by people who want to make a difference.” If it were possible to make these videos to enlighten students about why they’re learning what they’re learning, how it is relevant and applicable—that would be a dream.

    I recently had a faculty member tell me that she didn’t want to ask students in a course eval if they felt the course work had been relevant. As she said, students often don’t understand until many years later why it was relevant. Somehow she didn’t seem to think that it might be part of her job to help the students understand their learning in context and to help them see how it might be useful.

    What would be really interesting would be to see if in producing these kinds of clips we would start to pay more attention to the kinds of learning experiences we were offering.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. What great points. ‘Nother words, try to answer not just “why college?” (which only invites platitudes like “to join like-minded people who want to make a difference”), but also “why this learning in particular?” Right?

      Why these skills, this understanding, this set of courses . . . like the question that stumped your faculty member. And yeah, students need at least a provisional answer to make education purposeful and lasting, even if it’s a decade or so before the full utility sinks in.

      Tall order for a TV spot. But so’s whipping up noble sentiment for a for-profit on the public dole, and they manage that.

  2. Jayme is onto something. “What would be really interesting would be to see if in producing these kinds of clips we would start to pay more attention to the kinds of learning experiences we were offering.” Yes!!!!!

    I, too, have heard the comment about relevance being years away. It’s sort of like a parent taking the easy way out by telling a child “Do as I say! You’ll understand someday. Just wait until you have your own!” There is a parallel to the notion of an after life, too–you’ll understand everything when you’re dead.

    As faculty assessment coordinator, I’ve heard multiple faculty make the argument that assessment is at best useless, at worst misleading, because what they are teaching doesn’t “reach fruition” for many years. This is a rubber band in the culture of higher education (something that snaps the institution back to its original shape whenever anyone tries to reshape it) –similar to a roadblock like the argument that we can’t “study” our students and how they learn unless we have approval from a human subjects review board and informed consent from them (as if we are experimenting on them, subjecting them to a treatment of some kind). Roadblocks and rubber bands…

    Maybe if we started filming, watching the films, and broadcasting the best scenes we find, we would not just attract students, but begin to build local, living, non-replicable curricula for students in our/their here and now. Maybe if we could look as faculty film makers and see our students as vibrant human beings with strong desires to make authentic meaning, we might be able to engineer/plan/script learning opportunities suitable for tv commercials. If we can get our students out into our/their communities as true agents, they would be enacting community theater in a live way that could be more influential than anything on tv.

    Bagels R Us, Ken. Btw, this is the problem with GE’s hyper reliance on textbooks. They are mass produced for the generic student who happens to be taking Abstract Chemistry in Anytown, USA, and ought to “get” the same stuff as any other generic student in any other Anytown.

    So turn on the cameras, partly to frame tv commercials, but mostly to hold up a mirror to ourselves.

  3. It is an interesting phenomena, this critique of the privates and proprietaries. One of the things they have done reasonably well is to identify their learner’s needs and aspirations. It is one of the things that is resisted by faculty who tend to adhere to our own conception of the learner in somewhat static terms. Also interesting to me is that folks in Student Affairs have a much more finely honed sense of learner’s needs and aspirations, one that faculty tend to dismiss because the messenger (a member of the staff, irrespective of degree attainment etc.) is NOT faculty. Even interesting and innovative restructuring of the contours of the traditional university GE cannot be successful unless and until the means and aims of the learning experiences are realigned with the needs and aspirations of the learners. To paraphrase Eric Clapton (and others before him, including Margaret Mead), “fore you ‘cuse me, take a look at yourself!”

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