Ohio college uses infomercials to prod students

AP News
Posted: Oct 26, 2014 12:33 PM

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — A university in northeast Ohio is lampooning infomercials as a way to push students to graduate on time.

The Finish In Time, or F.I.T., effort at the University of Akron urges students to take at least 15 credit hours per semester to stay on pace. The emailed videos show co-hosts dancing awkwardly and touting side effects of on-time graduation such as "more cash in your pocket" and "a craving for an extremely large burrito."

They also get across the benefits of graduating with less college debt in a way the school hopes will connect with students.

"It's a serious topic, but we wanted to do something to get the attention of the audience we were going to," said Wayne Hill, associate vice president of marketing. "We went for cheeky, not preachy."

The Akron Beacon Journal reports that the school benefits if students respond, since state funding is linked to six-year graduation rates. The school's graduation rates have been around 40 percent or below in recent years.

There have so far been two of the cheesy videos made to look like low-budget infomercials.

In the latest 90-second spot, co-hosts Chris Stimler and William "Willy" Kollman banter as the "F.I.T. Guys" about graduating on time as a large burrito appears in front of them, and they stand behind "F.I.T." cereal boxes labeled "As Seen on TV." They urge: "Join the masses and schedule your classes today."

Kollman is UA's associate director of alumni relations, and Stimler is assistant director of admissions.

Chelsi King, a senior and president of the Undergraduate Student Government, praised the F.I.T. campaign.

"I'm ecstatic that they are pushing it," she said.

It appears many students have decided to "act now," as infomercial pitchmen like to say. There was a 28 percent increase in first-time, full-time freshmen taking at least 15 credit hours this fall over the same period last school year.

A survey released last year by Complete College America, an Indianapolis nonprofit, indicated 52 percent of full-time students nationwide were taking fewer than 15 hours —the standard that would lead to graduating in four years.

"The University of Akron is on track to be a national leader when it comes to increasing the number of students taking 15-plus credits a semester," said Blake Johnson, spokesman for Complete College America. "By the progress you're seeing in your first-time freshmen, you are taking big steps to change culture. Most of your freshman are on track to graduate on time. That's a big deal."