Advertising Strategies and Lessons


Boise State Subscription: A Lesson In Innovation And Positioning

April 12, 2019 Sarah Cavill

undergraduate students

Across the U.S. there are more than 16 million students enrolled in undergraduate programs, which is an increase of 28% since 2000. Enthusiasm for higher education is expected to scale, however the expense of college remains a top concern for parents and students. Being able to afford college can be an integral factor in enrollment and student retention, so colleges have been offering a variety of payment plans, scholarships and tuition discounts for years.

Recently, Boise State University launched a subscription plan that covers tuition expenses for certain online bachelor’s degree programs. This innovative approach capitalizing on the growing subscription trend is an example of a school proactively meeting the needs and capturing the attention of their audience.

Boise State Offers A Subscription Plan For Online Programs

Boise State created a subscription plan for two of their online workforce development programs after a five-year effort focused on making secondary education more accessible to rural students in Idaho. Passport to Education, the Boise State subscription model, is available to students enrolled in applied science or multidisciplinary studies. Students commit to either 18- or 27-credit year programs and pay their tuition in monthly installments.

Opting into the subscription plan offers Boise State students a tuition discount of 18% or 30%, depending on the amount of credits chosen, and the tuition price is locked down for seven years. A strategic partnership with credit union CapEd, which subsidizes some of the additional fees students in the Passport program may accumulate, made it possible to launch the program. Students enrolled in the Passport program must become members of the CapEd credit union, and open an account with CapEd. There are various types of eligibility with CapEd, but the process is simple and can be completed on the CapEd Passport to Education web page.

Approximately 300,000 people in Idaho have associate’s degrees or some college completed. Passport to Education was developed with the understanding that many of those 300,000, among others not accounted for, didn’t complete a bachelor’s degree because of financial worries or distance from campus. By studying current consumer interests and trends that would appeal to their audience, Boise State was able to address these hurdles to college completion and offer online educational opportunities to a deeper pool of students. Their positioning of Passport to Education, and use of a subscription model, also garnered Boise State media attention other colleges’ monthly payment plans have not received.

Subscription Programs Can Utilize Data And Appeal To Younger Demographics

The subscription business is growing by leaps and bounds. Driven by younger generations, subscriptions increased sales 4,461% from 2011-2016 and research indicates that 70% of organizations have launched or are considering launching subscription options for consumers. Subscription services are also thriving during a time when access to customer activity and profile data is at an all time high. This data provides businesses, including higher education institutions, the opportunity to develop more personalized relationships and targeted communications with their audience.

Understanding Audiences Helps Colleges Effectively Position Existing Goods And Services

Boise State

In order to effectively market and implement a new approach to an existing product or service, it’s imperative to define your audience and what’s important to them, particularly if what you’re offering hasn’t been resonating.

A comprehensive understanding of your audience involves a deep dive into their wants and needs and the limitations keeping them from meeting those goals. Audience profiling should go beyond basic demographics to include behavioral attributes for the creation of granular audience segmentations. In the case of Boise State, the Passport to Education architects knew distance and financial concerns were existing hurdles for prospective students – especially in rural parts of Idaho – and they were able to build a program that attempted to alleviate those roadblocks.

Connecting With A Consumer Need Or Trend Can Generate Attention

Repositioning a product so it meets the needs of a more targeted audience likely means embracing a number of new strategies. These strategies could include incorporating outside trends like subscription payment plans, optimizing personalized communications or utilizing more specific language that effectively differentiates your offerings.  

It isn’t always possible or necessary to create something new, particularly if you can successfully repurpose an existing service. Be it an academic program or meal plan, if executed well, higher education institutions can generate excitement within their target audience.

Reimagine Your Next Steps In Higher Education Marketing

Learn more about DMS Education, an industry leader in matching schools with students who enroll and graduate. Using an extensive portfolio of owned-and-operated, education-focused properties and a diversified, multi-channel media mix, DMS Education provides predictable, scalable reliable education marketing to a long list of traditional and for-profit colleges, trade schools, community colleges, boot camps, continuing education providers, OPMs and agencies.

Contact DMS today to learn more about what DMS Education can do for you.

About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Senior Marketing Communications Writer, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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