It's September and the college campuses are again teeming with students, which is always a pleasant sight after the dormant months of summer and especially with so many other national problems on the horizon. Last night, my wife and I were at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., to hear a lecture by author James Howard Kunstler ("The Long Emergency"). Arriving just before nightfall, we strolled through the hilly campus full of gorgeous old stone buildings, huge oak trees and bustling students off to study at the library. It reminded me quickly what a great privilege it is for anyone who can attend such a university.
After the stirring and thought-provoking speech about peak oil, financial collapse and other life-changing matters, I had the pleasure to speak with Kunstler about the deterioration of rail transport and the need to revive it. Then I told him I was the editor of a direct mail publication and he remarked, "That's a related conversation that America needs to have."
With that, let's launch into an examination of the prospecting direct mail from colleges that our Who's Mailing What! Archive came across in July. One thing is pretty clear and that's the fact that online education continues to grow—ironic, considering my campus visit last night. With many professionals looking to boost their careers, online colleges and universities have become more popular than ever (and the online trend now has included secondary educators as well).
Of course, the University of Phoenix is the most well-known among the online universities. In a recent issue of Advertising Age, it was partly painted as a gigantic branding experiment that remains inconclusive. In the article, "A Lot of Branding But Not Much Understanding," you're told that the University of Phoenix spent $134 million last year on measured media, whereas most universities spend a few million at most. But its success cannot be argued, for it's now the largest private university with over 400,000 students, 230 campus and learning-center locations, and over $3.1 billion in revenue during fiscal year 2008.