Alan Finder’s NY Times article today about college branding came as no surprise to me, having represented two top 15 business schools. Colleges such as Beaver, Trenton State and Cal State Hayward have all changed their names in hopes of increasing enrollments, endowments and, via both, their positions in the all-important US News & World Report rankings. In fact, the US News and BusinessWeek rankings have absolutely turned college & university marketing upside down. The average person would be stunned to know how much time and emphasis is placed on rankings by college administrators. Moving up in the polls is a red letter event, while the reverse is cause for sorrow. While colleges are businesses, it’s sad to see how "rankings focused" they’ve become. I wonder if an increased focused on faculty and curriculum content (and strategically marketing each) might not be a smarter pursuit for the folks in higher education.
In the end, it’s about the educational experience. Slapping a new name on the campus gates won’t mean anything unless the renaming comes with unique offerings that allow the institution to differentiate itself from the others.