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Regents want to promote ‘Iowa brand’ with road show, campaign

Diane Heldt, CR Gazette –

State regents are discussing the idea of hiring a public relations firm to create an “Iowa brand” for the state’s three public universities for promotion internationally, board President Craig Lang said during a stop in Iowa City Thursday.

The board doesn’t have the funding currently for the plan, and there is no estimate for how much it might cost or how much the board might want to spend, Lang, of Brooklyn, said. But it’s an idea the board wants to explore, he said. International students boost diversity and the bottom line, helping to keep costs affordable for in-state students, he said.

The campaign could be aimed at Asia, a growing market for international student enrollment, and in other areas of the world, like Latin America, Lang said. It also could be used to promote the universities here at home, he said.

“We want to develop a brand, the Iowa brand, for our three public universities, because of the challenges we’ve had with (state) appropriations,” he said during a meeting with the University of Iowa chapter of the American Association of University Professors Thursday.

Board leaders have had one initial meeting to discuss the concept with an Iowa firm that has done similar campaigns for other schools, Lang said.

Since the money isn’t available for that right now, Lang said, the board is focusing outreach efforts on a student-led Iowa road show, where UI, Iowa State University and University of Northern Iowa students will travel the state to promote the value of public higher education. The students could visit specific towns where legislators or citizens have questioned state funding levels to the universities, for example, Lang said.

“I don’t know of a better way to promote our public universities than to have our students tell of the value,” he said.

Discussions with the Iowa House, which has recommended a $31 million cut to regents funding, is the “most difficult issue” right now for the board, Lang said. But he thinks the regents are making progress with the House in a negotiation for education funding.

Gov. Terry Branstad has recommended a $23 million increase for the regents, and board leaders have said all along that if funding is below that level, “the only alternative would be a tuition increase” above the 3.75 percent already approved for next year, Lang said.

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