Centre College Uses VP Debate to Gain Attention

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Centre College, Danville, KY, is trying to capitalize on the attention it will receive next week, when it hosts this year's only U.S. vice presidential debate.


School officials over the summer used the upcoming debate between Dick Cheney, the Republican candidate, and Joseph Lieberman, the Democratic candidate, as a springboard for a direct mail campaign to bolster Centre's student recruitment effort.


Centre, a liberal arts college with an enrollment of about 1,050, used its database to target high school history, social studies, political science and government teachers. Five thousand brochures were mailed to teachers in the Southeast, which is where Centre often looks to recruit students, said Mike Norris, the college's director of communications.


"In many cases, the brochures were sent to the heads of social studies or history departments," Norris said.


Teachers were encouraged to fill out and return reply cards. The response rate was impressive, "almost unheard of for an unsolicited mailing," Norris said.


The school got 600 replies -- a 12 percent response rate. Names and addresses of teachers who responded will increase Centre's database and will be used in future direct mail campaigns and recruitment efforts, Norris said. Centre spent $1,800 to print the brochures and another $1,250 to mail them. The total campaign cost $3,600.


"If we can recruit just one full-paid student through this, it would be a return of more than $90,000," Norris said. Tuition at Centre costs $22,500 per year and will increase over the next few years.


Centre sent vice presidential trivia posters to the teachers who responded to the promotion.


"Offering free posters was a value-added technique. We're offering teachers something of concrete value to help them do their jobs and make classes more interesting for their students," Norris said.


Centre launched www.vpcentre.net to tie in with the posters. The Web site provides answers to the trivia questions on the posters. Vpcentre.net also includes lesson plans related to the vice presidency, links to other political Web sites and information about Centre College.


Norris wants teachers to hang the posters in their classrooms, use the lesson plans on vpcentre.net and encourage their students to visit the Web site. All past and present vice presidents were listed on the posters, and two spaces were left open so teachers and students can fill in future vice presidents.


"We did this in hopes that the posters will stay up for a few years. People have a tendency to want to complete things," Norris said.


Centre printed its logo, telephone number, and Web addresses for its home page (www.centre.edu) and vpcentre.net on the poster.


"We're improving name recognition. Our image is enhanced when teachers and students look over the posters and visit vpcentre.net. They'll realize two vice presidents have come from Centre," Norris said. John C. Breckinridge, who served from 1857 to 1861 under President James Buchanan, and Adlai E. Stevenson, who served from 1893 to 1897 under President Grover Cleveland, graduated from Centre.
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