Columbia College's new tuition plan keeps rates for up to 5 years

Thursday, September 15, 2011 | 6:35 p.m. CDT; updated 11:51 a.m. CDT, Monday, September 19, 2011
Gerald T. Brouder, president of Columbia College, introduces the new school brand at the State of the College Address on Sept. 15, 2011. In addition to the new brand, Brouder unveiled a new tuition plan and internship program.

*CORRECTION: Brandi Herrman is a spokeswoman for Columbia College. An earlier version of this article misspelled her last name.

COLUMBIA — Columbia College President Gerald Brouder announced a new tuition plan and a new school brand Thursday.

The tuition plan, Smart Step, will hold the tuition charged during a student's freshman year constant for up to five years, Brouder said. It is designed to allow students and families to plan for college expenses.

Smart Step will be discussed at the college's Board of Trustees meeting in October and is tentatively set to begin next fall.

Columbia College introduced a brand change after Brouder's State of the College Address, which he delivers every other year. The new brand includes a new logo, additional school colors and a new school flag.

The college hadn't taken a step back and looked at itself since 1996, Joanne Tedesco, senior director of public relations, said. The rebranding was a chance to do that.

Students, faculty, parents and alumni were asked what the college meant to them, Tedesco said. Based on feedback from focus groups, emails and in-person interviews, the school settled on two defining attributes: "real" and "serious about education." These attributes were used to shape its branding.

*The terms show the college's dual identity, which has evolved particularly over the past decade: a brick-and-mortar campus in Columbia and other places across the country and a strong online program, spokeswoman Brandi Herrman said.

“The brand is a symbol of who we are,” Brouder said. “It’s a kind of a window out to the future.”

Columbia College student Jacob Huber likes the new brand. “It’s nice and simple,” he said.

"The new brand makes us look like a more serious college," student Brandon Finney said.

The college worked with Stamats Higher Education Marketing in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to develop the brand. The process took 18 months.

After Brouder's address, the school raised its new flag for the first time in front of St. Clair Hall.

Right now, the brand is just for the institution, Tedesco said. But the Athletics Department has shown an interest and is in the preliminary stages of taking on the brand for the college's 10 sports teams.

Columbia College also announced a new student management internship program with Big Lots, a chain of stores that sells discounted merchandise.

Big Lots CEO Steve Fishman, who graduated from Columbia College, said the program will give students not only internship experience but the opportunity to work as assistant managers at the stores and build a career.

“We have the money capital, just not the people capital,” Fishman said.

Along with the announcement, Big Lots donated $25,000 to the school's Business Department.

Sean Siebert, associate professor of business administration, has been working on the partnership to bring the internship program to Columbia College. He said it's a great opportunity for students.

Pilot programs started Aug. 23 at Columbia College locations in Crystal Lake, Ill., and Marysville, Wash.

When the seven-week pilot ends, Big Lots and Columbia College will talk about what worked well and what didn’t, Siebert said.

The internship program will expand to all of the college's 34 locations after the new year.

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