University airing informercial on local television to attract prospective students

Dr. Julio León, University President

Dr. Julio León, University President

Philip Martin

As seen on TV, Missouri Southern has the cheapest tuition in the state and a new recruiting tool.

Rod Surber, director of public information, said Southern started developing an idea to make an infomercial in November 2003. Surber said the idea came from University President Julio León.

“It was something he felt was important to get the message out more thoroughly,” Surber said. “It’s something you don’t see other institutions doing, so it’s something new and different.”

Surber said the infomercial cost approximately $500 to make because it was made in-house.

Derek Skaggs, director of enrollment services, said he did research on infomercials before Southern’s was made. He found most infomercials would cost several thousand dollars to make.

León said the cost to make the infomercial is minimal compared to the message that is sent out.

“Compare a 30-second commercial with the possibility of somebody seeing five or six minutes of this infomercial, granted it won’t be at the same time,” León said. “But it is the only way in which we could economically do it, for one, and secondly, it affords the opportunity to get the institution shown.”

The infomercial is being shown in northwest Arkansas, Springfield, Joplin southeast Kansas and northeast Oklahoma, the University’s service areas. These areas were picked because students in these areas do not know a lot about the University.

“It’s amazing to me the number of people in Springfield. When you say Missouri Southern, [people] don’t even know where we are,” Surber said. “So, we’re trying to change that. We’re trying to raise the awareness, that we’re now a University. We’re trying to demonstrate that we have a number of new programs that are raising the elevation, trying to step up to the University status.”

The infomercial is broken up into four sections that deal with the small class size, the personal attention resulting from the small classes, the international mission, graduate successes and the cost/value of Southern. Several students were interviewed for the infomercial along with some alumni. Surber said the students were, kind of, chosen at random.

“[It was] somewhat random, but with the international mission, we wanted to pick students with international experience,” he said. “We picked students we were aware of who had good jobs in the area, in result of their education here. Contact with faculty members and so forth was a big part of it, and any recommendations they would have of students that would go to their classes and various issues.”

Between the sections of the infomercial, there are some 30-second commercials shown that highlight new programs, such as the Bioinfomatics and the Crime Scene Investigation programs, as well as the Missouri Southern International Piano Competition.

Surber said he has received positive comments from some faculty members of Northwest Arkansas Community College.

“Their president saw it and was very impressed with it,” Surber said. “Already I have heard some really favorable comments from people who have seen it.”

Students at Southern have mixed feelings about the commercials. One student who saw it said the infomercial could be better.

“It’s just the same one we had for the college, but they changed it from college to University,” said Jay Herbert, junior biology major.

Another student said she had not seen the infomercial, but believes it is a good idea in recruiting students, but has her reservations about it.

“It might be beneficial, but I think if the kids had more money they would go to a different college,” said Kim Bastin, junior secondary education major.

Skaggs said the infomercial is a better way to reach students, because the University just sends out material that is on paper.

“It’s a unique format and is a more visual announcement of the name change,” he said.

The infomercial is only being seen in the immediate area, with no plans being made to take outside of the area.