COURTESY OF MAKAHA STUDIOS AND UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII
A photo from a television commercial is shown promoting the University of Hawaii at West Oahu. The campus is in the middle of a media campaign to raise its visibility and recruit students to the school, which is building a new campus in Kapolei.
UH-West Oahu toots its horn
The University of Hawaii at West Oahu is advertising to let potential students and their parents know it exists.
"When our recruiters go out, we hear it all the time," said Chancellor Gene Awakuni. "Even people who live in Pearl City don't know we exist."
For the last 31 years, UH-West Oahu has been housed in portables next to the much larger Leeward Community College.
But UH-West Oahu has big plans for expansion. It recently reached an agreement to build a $135 million campus in Kapolei, which will open in the 2009-2010 academic year. Last fall, UH-West Oahu accepted its first freshman class of about 40 students.
UH-West Oahu has set a goal of having 1,200 students when the new campus opens. Current enrollment is 858.
"We do need to gain ground here and increase awareness of what programs we're offering," said Gail Mejia, UH-West Oahu's new director of public relations and marketing.
UH-West Oahu had hoped for up to 100 students in its first freshman class. But only 40 students signed up for the first freshman classes. Mejia said the university started recruiting late, because it didn't get approval to offer freshman classes until November 2006 and marketing materials weren't ready until January.
This year the university's marketing campaign began in October and will continue through January, as students and parents consider what schools to attend this spring and next fall.
The university has $50,000 for marketing. But the money is being supplemented by private donations and discounts from local television and radio stations, magazines and newspapers, Awakuni said.
A local market research firm is also donating a marketing survey, he said.
The university used Waianae High School's media services to make its television commercials, saving it some money, Awakuni said. The university paid $10,000 for three commercials.
"We're trying to be as cost-conscious as we possibly can," he said.
The campaign might have had some results, Awakuni added. Transfer applications for the spring are up to 168 applicants from 104 at this time last year.
Awakuni said the campaign is aimed at high school seniors. But he said there is a growing awareness among parents that UH-West Oahu is a lower-cost alternative f to other colleges.
He said the university will re-evaluate the campaign in January and might target parents in its next round of advertising.
This fall freshman classes were offered only at night in classrooms at Island Pacific Academy in Kapolei. But because of demand, UH-West Oahu will offer lower-division classes at its campus at Leeward Community College during the daytime starting this spring.
The cost of adding the lower-division classes at UH-West Oahu was estimated at $952,000 this year and $1.4 million next year.
The program is expected to run at a deficit until next year.