The Baltimore area is home to about 100,000 college students, with thousands graduating in any given year. Now a new marketing campaign wants to boost Baltimore's image as a college town, and more importantly, as a great place to live and work.
"We don't keep very many of those kids," said Fred Lazarus, president of Maryland Institute College of Art, one of the 13 colleges and universities that make up the Baltimore Collegetown Network. "We need to retain them. We want to make sure they're coming to Baltimore for Baltimore, and not in spite of Baltimore." The $260,000 marketing campaign features a slick publication with tips and information for current and prospective students, making sure, for example, that they're tuned into popular student eating places such as Vaccaro's Italian Pastry Shop, the Papermoon restaurant and the Double T Diner.
A revamped Web site will help prospective students plan a trip to the city, right down to booking a hotel room, and also will offer existing students advice on free offers and hot places to go in Baltimore.
"I'm hoping that this is the beginning of really making a difference in the perception of Baltimore," said Debra Rubino, president of the governing board of Baltimore Collegetown Network and vice president of communications at Goucher College. "If students come to Baltimore predisposed to a positive image of the city and the region, there's more of a possibility that they will, after they graduate, live and work in the region."
The Collegetown Network has its work cut out for it, a recent survey it conducted on the Internet showed.
Some 43 percent of the Baltimore-area students who responded said they definitely or probably won't remain in Baltimore after graduation. An additional 36 percent said they are undecided about whether they will stay.
The survey - the first ever to evaluate the perception of Baltimore among the area's college students - included more than 1,500 students from 12 of the member schools. Its findings helped guide the content selection for the Web site and the Collegetown magazine called "Baltimore: Unexpected, Unmatched, Unlimited."
The Web site features links to each college's site, with quotes from students about how they use Baltimore's resources and what they recommend. Discounts to some of the city's destinations, restaurants and nightclubs are featured in a "Hot Tips," section. Information about restaurants near campus is contained in the "Eats" section complete with descriptions of the cuisine, student reviews and directions.
In addition to the 13 member colleges and universities, the marketing initiative is supported by the Baltimore Community Foundation, the Goldseker Foundation, the Greater Baltimore Alliance and the Whiting Turner Contracting Co.
The Collegetown Network member institutions include: Baltimore Hebrew University, College of Notre Dame of Maryland, Coppin State College, Goucher College, the Johns Hopkins University, Loyola College in Maryland, Maryland Institute College of Art, Morgan State University, Towson University, University of Baltimore, University of Maryland, Baltimore, University of Maryland Baltimore County and Villa Julie College.