Virginia Western Community College

Moving the Needle

Virginia Western Community College (VWCC) is a two-year public institution of higher education operating on a 70-acre campus located in Southwest Roanoke. The College was established in 1966 and has grown from an initial enrollment of 1,352 to its current enrollment of over 12,000.

Challenge

In 2011 Virginia Western wisely anticipated the leveling of admission increases and selected Access to help refine marketing efforts, better articulate brand and refine messaging.

Due Diligence

Access conducted a full audit of Virginia Western’s existing marketing initiatives, researched quantitative data on regional market dynamics, and prepared a comparative analysis between two- and four-year competitive schools and Virginia Western in order to determine primary differentiators. 

In addition, focus groups were conducted with students in marketing classes of four regional high schools to understand current awareness and perception of Virginia Western, including its existing marketing campaign, and learn what students consider to be important factors when making decisions about higher education.

Out of this research, Access created a multifaceted advertising campaign, supported by public relations, to communicate the Virginia Western difference – that enrollment can take students wherever they want to go faster and for less.  

Results

Everyone thought that the enrollment boom had passed as schools statewide experienced leveling enrollment. Virginia Western saw the highest enrollment levels since the early years of the college at a time when only one other community college in the Virginia system saw an increase. 

College spokesman Josh Meyer described a typical increase in a good year as one or two percent, but in one year the college’s enrollment grew 10.84 percent — marking the most dramatic enrollment increase in the school’s history, and outperforming the entire Virginia Community College System.

Such dramatic growth involved a combination of factors including excellent facilities, and strong faculty and leadership. This was underscored by a productive and pleasant partnership between Access and Virginia Western’s capable internal marketing department and progressive award-winning creative.