MARKETING THE COMMUNITY'S COLLEGE by Eduardo J. Padrón
The Miami Dade story epitomizes the community college movement. The college opened its doors in 1960 to 1,428 students. By 1962, students numbered 6,000, and the number swelled to 13,000 by 1964. By 1967, Miami-Dade Junior College was the largest institution of higher education in the State of Florida, enrolling 23,341 students. The college enrolled more freshmen than the University of Florida, Florida State University, and the University of South Florida combined. It was the fastest growing college in the nation.
The overwhelming educational needs in the community helped establish Miami Dade's early mission. Suddenly, attending college became a reality for thousands. High school completers with mediocre academic records, older adults seeking to rekindle their career aspirations, and wave upon wave of immigrants seeking a fresh start populated the college's early classrooms. Miami-Dade Community College, now Miami Dade College (MDC), quickly became the people's college.
Despite national acclaim, the college was viewed locally as lacking the academic rigor of top-tier schools. The legislature seemed to share the stepsister attitude; funding for the college throughout the 1980s and 1990s equaled just half of the allotment to schools in the state university system.
Those two concerns – the public perception that served to turn away the more accomplished college-bound students and the need to supplement state funding – formed the core of the college's marketing rationale. In 1999, MDC launched a marketing campaign, the first step in a successful process of influencing perceptions about the college and building a base for a successful capital drive.
OPPORTUNITY CHANGES EVERYTHING
Two primary themes emerged to propel the marketing forward. The Miami Dade College Foundation, driving force in developing the rudiments of the college's nascent capital campaign, produced a logo that truly reflected the college's ethos: Opportunity Changes Everything. It resonated immediately with the community at large.
The most powerful early impact, however, came from the branding partner of Opportunity Changes Everything. Throughout the county and in a variety of media, the motto, Everywhere You Turn: Successful Alumni began to turn heads. Quickly, the college changed in the public perception from the school of last resort to one that had educated many of the most respected members of the community.
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Dr. Susan Salvador
Office for Student Service