Andrea Cranford is trying for the second time to revive the Cornhusker, the student yearbook at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.
But this time Cranford, the school's yearbook adviser, is receiving help from a Dallas-based publisher whose goal is to revive a college tradition that began dying decades ago across the nation.
Last spring, Taylor Publishing Co. approached 22 colleges and universities about helping them produce their yearbooks. Taylor would do the printing, marketing and distribution -- and take care of those costs. The schools would do the writing, editing and photography. If profits exceed costs, the schools would get a portion of the proceeds.
The idea came about after the firm saw the number of yearbooks decline for nearly four decades, said Alan Heath, Taylor's vice president of collegiate sales. In the 1960s, students became more involved in extracurricular activities and took jobs to pay for tuition; they decided they did not need the additional expense of having the keepsake, he said.
The schools on their own simply could not market and sell the books at a cost that would cover expenses, Heath said. Taylor has priced each book between $75 and $85.
Nebraska's last attempt at reviving its book, which began in 1999 and failed after three years, left Eileen Chalupa convinced that she and her fellow Cornhusker staff members simply were not able to put enough effort into marketing to make the book successful.
"Our sales were really bad. Our costs were pretty high," said Chalupa, who was editor in 2001. "There was just no way for students to market it to other students."
At some schools, Taylor is going beyond marketing by offering computer equipment or small stipends to the editors.
A spokeswoman for Jostens Inc., best known for selling class rings but which also produces yearbooks and other school memorabilia, said Taylor's program is unique. Jostens is open to the college market but is not interested in starting a program like Taylor's, said Julie Goetz.
The University of California at Los Angeles believes having Taylor market its Bruin Life could lead to more of its 25,000 undergraduates buying a copy, said Arvli Ward, director of student media. In the past, fewer than 2,000 yearbooks were sold each year.
Ward said he did not hesitate to take Taylor up on its offer.
"I basically get a risk-free yearbook," Ward said. "After a while, people are going to think that this is the only way to produce a college yearbook."
Taylor is now approaching an additional 400 colleges and universities for the program's second year, Heath said.
The company uses direct-mail and telemarketing to pitch the yearbooks to the parents of college students. Taylor targets parents, Heath said, because they may be more conscious than their children of the future sentimental value of yearbooks.
Taylor asks parents to update their children's personal information -- hometowns, majors and activities -- to be included in the yearbook. The company then asks the parents to order a book.
"We haven't found that parents balk at the price because they . . . realize the long-term value of the purchase in the first place," Heath said.
Linda Cross of Falmouth, Ky., recently bought a yearbook for her daughter, Kara, who is a senior at Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky. Kara, who is in a sorority and the school band, had wanted the book to help her remember her senior year.
Cross thought the book's price was "a little steep" but figured that buying it was just another senior expense, like a graduation cap and gown.
Though final sales numbers are not yet available, Heath said, in nearly every case, the orders at participating colleges have exceeded previous years' orders.
Heath said it is too soon to tell whether Taylor would make a profit on the new program. He said he expects that the company will spend more money on marketing this year, as a test year, than it would need to spend next year.
Transylvania is saving about $10,000 over last year by using Taylor's services, said Katherine Yeakel, adviser to the university's Crimson.
Just the thought of breaking even has Nebraska's Cranford breathing a sigh of relief.
"There are a lot of people that feel strongly the university needs a yearbook," Cranford said. "I guess the bottom line is -- do the students feel that way? I guess we're going to find out."