In an effort to boost sagging enrollment, American University has expanded its adult education programs and borrowed some time-proven advertising techniques from Madison Avenue to promote adult registration.
So far it seems to be working. In the past three weeks, the AU "Jog Your Mind" advertising campaign has elicited 2,700 inquiries about the programs, hinting that college courses can be marketed as well as commercial products.
The "Jog Your Mind" campaign, which is the brainchild of the Pasley, Romorini and Canby advertising agency, features newspaper and radio advertisement, direct mail literature and a "Jog Your Mind" T-shirt for each adult who enrolls in the AU division of continuing education.
Prospective students can call a Jogline to ask questions of an adult education adviser, and the university has jogged out to the suburbs by opening two new regional mini-campuses in Fairfax County in Virginia and Montgomery County in Maryland.
The successful selling of the university stems both from the agency's promotional abilities and from the adult community's interest in earning advanced degrees, according to continuing education dean Thomas Coffey.
"The traditional mind-set held that an adult education program was an ancillary, unrelated part of a university," said AU Provost Richard Berendzen, as he sipped tea in his impressive, book-lined office. "The heart and core was the full-time, undergraduate 18-to 22-year-old student."
That point of view is changing for both pragmatic and altruistic reasons, Berendzen explained.Because a declining birth rate has led to enrollment losses among the traditional college-age groups, continuing education programs geared to reach adults in the 22 to 44-year old range can help the university maintain its tuition income and faculty positions.
That Berendzen supports the expanded adult programs is evident by his attire - along with somber black pants, he sports an electric blue "Jog Your Mind" T-shirt.
AU had a 1977 fall enrollment of about 12,500 students; of those about 30 percent were adult, part-time students.That figure was down from 13,046 students enrolled in the fall of in 1976 and 13,881 in 1975. The number of non-degree students decreased from 6,500 in 1968-69 to a little more than 3,000 in the fall of 1976.
The current aggressive enrollment campaign is expected to add 200 to 250 continuing education students each term. While Berendzen said AU "doesn't need the adults, at least now, in terms of finanacial solvency," he said the additional students could be important to AU in the future.
On the altruistic side, "one of the goals and missions of this university is to reach the needs of the adult community," he said. Expanded facilities and staff will make off-campus programs available to 2,000 to 2,500 additional students over the next two years.
While past continuing education programs have featured scattered courses appealing to adults who want academic enrichment through a class or two, the program this fall will offer more than 500 accredited evening courses structured toward bachelors' and graduate degrees and certificates.
Based on a market analysis of what adults in the community want to study, the continuing education program will offer seven new masters' degree programs in business, a series of free off-campus seminars on "Washington Careers" and expanded course offerings specifically directed to career professionals in business, government, public information, management, economics and finance.
To meet the needs of suburban residents who want the advantages of an AU campus without the hassles of driving downtown, the university is opening the Fairfax County Regional Center at Flint Hill Preparatory School, 3101 Chain Bridge Rd., Oakton, and the Montgomery County Regional Center at Georgetown Preparatory School, 10900 Rockville Pike, Rockville.
Registration, book sales and academic advisement will be available at each campus.
"Higher education is caught in a difficult bind," Berendzen acknowledged. "The bulk of our funds come in tuitions and we want to do things that are educationally sound and possibly noble."