Be a Year-Round Continuing Education SantaJohn DeLalla | Director of Continuing Education, University of Arizona South
FREE: it’s a word even non-tightwads can appreciate.
It’s also misnomer—there is no such thing as a free lunch. Yet, each week I feed dozens of hungry non-credit continuing education students a free steak lunch. At least the students think it’s free. Deep down, we both know their course registration fee (called tuition to sound more academic) has the cost of the lunch, beverage service, and all related marketing items built in.
The fee also covers a gift during each class session. The gifts are nice—something the students want to keep, re-gift, or display on their desks at work. And that’s the point of all this: to keep the university and department name top of mind with our target audience.
Each Thursday of a one-week, daytime non-credit class, I visit all student classrooms wearing a red polo shirt with our university logo, department name, and program URL on the sleeve. As our campus is near a large military base, we have many veterans and military-related students in our courses, which makes support of Red Shirt Friday (www.redshirtfridays.org) dually symbolic for both our school colors and supporting the troops.
I give each student their own red polo shirt with university logo, based on the size they requested on the first day of class, and tell them not only about Red Shirt Friday, but also about school pride and spirit for our university athletic teams. I encourage the students to wear the shirts the next day, and when they do, another small gift is provided to them—much like the experiment Pavlov performed on his dog.
As we’re in a relatively small community (population 50,000 ), I often see former continuing education students wearing the shirts in the community, and I make a point of going over and saying hi—even if I don’t know or remember their name—and giving them a card to redeem for another free item next time they are on campus.
Although the cost of the shirt, about $9/student, and the cost of the second item (range from $3-12) might seem high when multiplied by hundreds of students, the loyalty and connection it brings to our student population—and prospective student population— pays dividends in return enrollments and affinity for the university.
Author Perspective: Administrator