Freshmen enrollment is still down almost two and a half years after race-based protests rocked the University of Missouri at Columbia campus. Now, the institution is shelling out millions in hopes of attracting more prospective students.
A report from the Chronicle of Higher Learning revealed the university paid $1.3 million to a public relations firm to repair its reputation amid lay offs of roughly 350 employees. The firm, 160over90, reportedly suggested the school spend $1.8 million on marketing aimed at recruiting new students and boosting enrollment.
Mizzou made national headlines in 2016, after a string of racist incidents sparked protests by African-American students who called on university leaders to address the racist culture on campus. Things only got worse however, after former communications professor Melissa Click threatened a student journalist trying to cover the student-led protests.
Click was ultimately booted from campus and embattled President Tim Wolfe resigned, but the public university is still struggling to shake its negative image. According to the Chronicle, several parents have raised concerns about the protests when considering Mizzou as an option for their children. School leaders say parents and students still ask about the incident involving Click during their campus tours.
The university has much of the blame on mainstream media for the negative attention.
“We were caught off guard,” chancellor Alexander Cartwright, who started at the university last year, told the Chronicle.
Despite the lag in student numbers, a spokesperson for the university told Fox News they expect enrollment to increase 14 percent. The representative also said the university has received ” … a significant amount of increased support from legislators, alumni and the general public.”
Mizzou’s chief diversity officer Kevin McDonald took efforts a step further by giving his cellphone number to prospective students and their families.
“I just want them to know that if they have questions, they will get answers,” McDonald said.