WEB EXCLUSIVE! Division of Adult Learning uses radio to increase adult enrollment

by Sarah Powell

The Division of Adult Learning attracts students in a different way than they would advertise with traditional students.

Adults aren’t in high school where the college can easily advertise; instead the college has to find another common thread among potential adult students that they can use to advertise.

The college has found that using radio and television help get messages to adult students and they have been doing this for the last 10 years.

Many traditional students haven’t heard these advertisements because they were being played on radio stations that were more geared toward adult listeners. However, recently the school has switched to a slightly different set of radio stations.

One of these stations is STAR 102.5, which is a top station among traditional and nontraditional students, according to Walter Pearson, director of adult learning.

They do actual radio advertisements as well as sponsoring the weather and traffic reports, which they have done for the past five years.

Radio plays a large part in their advertisement. It is more targeted toward particular profiles than other types of advertising might be.

They also advertise in newspapers, such as the Des Moines Register and in regional newspapers such as the Indianola Record Herald and Tribune.

The school advertises the most during three specific times of year. They start advertising for a new year before the first mod starts in August.

A mod is night class that isn’t considered one in the regular semester because they don’t match up with the semester months and they don’t last as long as regular semesters.

They then tone is down until October and early November when the second mod starts. They do this consistently for the next two mods that start in January and February.

Part of the reasoning behind this is that when the prospective students hear the advertisements and call the school about classes, they want to be able to tell them that classes will start right away.

Simpson doesn’t use television ads for adult students because it is more costly than the other methods they use.

They want their advertisements to stress four basic themes: Quality, Flexibility, Convenience and Affordability.

“We’re just trying to get the message out that Simpson is a best value in the Midwest and that the reasons for that for the adult learners are just those four points,” said Pearson.

The school stresses their high level of quality, flexibility for working adults, the convenient campuses and scheduling and their convenient services that are available in the evenings at the West Des Moines office, which has the registrar, a bookstore and the business office all combined.

They also want to stress the affordability for a middle income student studying on a part time basis. If they qualify for the Iowa Tuition Grant, it is considerably less expensive.

“We work hard to make sure that things are convenient for the adult students,” said Pearson.

Students may start classes at any time. So while classes in August might start with a low enrollment rate, by the time that February rolls around the enrollment rate is somewhat higher.

There are many reasons why adults might decide to go back to school according to Pearson. Changes in their life might fuel the desire, or they might want to further degrees that they already have. Some students might just want to take a particular course, without receiving a degree.

The school is aiming their advertisements for adult students ages 23 and up. The average age for nontraditional students is 33 years old, though according to Pearson there are an increasing number of students in their 40’s. Currently there are 940 adult students attending classes.