By LAUREN GENTILE
Capital News Service
LANSING – Community colleges may find themselves becoming a branded network within the next year to polish their image and show the public they are an affordable option for higher education.
“We are working on making the 28 individualized colleges more of a state system and able to help one another promote each other,” said Michael Hansen, president of the Michigan Community College Association, said.
Hansen said branding will be more than a logo. It will be a “new community college network.”
“As an association, we believe there is a lack of understanding by the public, that community colleges offer a high-quality education at a low-cost,” Hansen said. “Community colleges also offer programs that offer direct-market payoff, and you can graduate with a career.”
The plan will help colleges list opportunities and offerings for prospective students in one location.
“Lots of community colleges have specific advantages over others, and this will help them promote what they are great at individually,” Hansen said.
“Why brand? This will help us market to instate students and out-of-state students. It will allow us to convince them that Michigan community colleges have a lot to offer.”
But, Schoolcraft College communications coordinator Michelle Gaynier isn’t 100 percent convinced.
“For us at Schoolcraft, there are some drawbacks,” she said. “For example, the distribution of the messages in the Metro Detroit area — there are many community colleges around. How are they going to make Schoolcraft stand out?”
Shawn Bauman, coordinator of design and publications at North Central Michigan College, said he feels indifferent about the plan.
“It could help some colleges more than others,” he said. “Hopefully, they will put an emphasis on what each school is good at.”
A St. Clair Community College official supports the idea.
“Anything we can do to get the community college message out there, we should do,” said Shawn Starkey, executive director of public relations, marketing and legislative affairs.
Starkey said he hopes the plan will get out the word about the benefits and local brands that community colleges have already created locally for themselves.
“Each college is individualized and we have worked hard at branding ourselves, but hopefully we can work together and make one massive brand that helps us all,” he said.
Hansen, president of the association, said he sees room for both local branding and statewide branding of all colleges.
“This proposal has the right timing. With the way the economy is, the community needs to know about the high-quality education they can receive at such an affordable price,” he said.
Hansen said a draft proposal should be ready by the end of the year.
“We hope to just get something out there and get all of the schools on the same page,” Hansen said. “The proposal will outline all of the intentions and rules and regulations of the future brand of Michigan community colleges.”
By LAUREN GENTILE