Students have mixed feelings about universities’ use of slogans

By Linze Griebenow

Amanda Owens, senior sociology major at Northeastern Illinois University, said she forgot colleges have slogans.

“Can you tell me what [the university slogan] is?” Owens said. Northeastern’s slogan is “Learn in the City, Lead in the World.”

Recently, many universities and colleges have branded their school’s experience with a school motto or slogan.

Tim Aurand, NIU associate professor of marketing, said the popularity of school branding is due to the high level of competition between institutions of higher learning.

“People need to be able to differentiate between one option from another,” Aurand said. “Students have so many options today, how do they keep them all straight? Anything we can do to reinforce our position is good.”

Ben Nicholson, junior computer science major at Western Illinois University, said he believes college slogans do not factor into the college search.

“I don’t think anyone directly looks for it; they probably don’t even consider it,” Nicholson said. “They just come upon it by accident or coincidence, especially when it’s usually all over the school’s main webpage; they have no choice but to happen upon it.”

The importance then becomes related to the amount of times students are faced with the motto, Aurand said.

“They see those words and…they become more and more important every time they read them,” Aurand said.

Aurand said he believes it is impossible to know exactly how a school’s statement impacts a student’s application admission or ultimate decision as to which school to attend.

“Different students go through different purchasing cycles, which is essentially the decicion-making process,” Aurand said. “Students who come from the western suburbs are probably going to have different motives in coming to NIU than an international student from China and thus may value or look at different aspects of the school or particular college.”

Aurand, however, said school slogans are still a very important step in the college process.

“For example, here at the NIU College of Business the motto is, ‘Where the Classroom Meets the Business World,’ and that really helps define what we do here on a daily basis,” Aurand said. “We really live that positioning statement. Whenever I work on a project I think, ‘Does this project fulfill [NIU’s College of Business slogan]?’ I want students to graduate and look back and be able to say, ‘NIU did just that.'”

NIU’s school slogan officially changed to “Learning Today, Leading Tomorrow” in August alongside a new logo. The new logo and tagline, however, have mixed impacts among some students.

Aurand said he believes it’s early for students to have become fully acquainted with “Learning Today, Leading Tomorrow.”

“We have to give it a little bit of time yet…everyday [students] see it and recognize it more and more,” Aurand said.

EIU also changed its slogan within the past year.

“I thought it was still ‘I.Am.EIU.’,” said Brendan Rice, EIU sophomore communications major. “I liked that one better. I think it resonates more with the students.”

K.C. McCarty NIU senior biology major said many students don’t even realize what their school slogan is until they reach campus.

“People go to school for a certain program or athletics or its proximity to or away from their house,” McCarty said. “It’s not like students research colleges and go, ‘Sweet school slogan, I want to go there!'”

Nicholson said he believes students also may feel apathetic towards school slogans because of the lack of diversity among them.

“Western’s seems too generic. So does NIU’s,” Nicholson said. “The other ones seem a bit more appealing, a bit more theatrical. I think [WIU’s slogan] seems pretty basic and doesn’t say a whole lot, but I guess it’s appropriate and it works.”