Images of public higher education in Louisiana: A survey of the perceptions of selected publics in regard to higher education funding and individual institutions

Rebecca Lea Tucker

Abstract

The value of higher education in the United States has been questioned and this has resulted in decreased state appropriations to many institutions of higher education nationwide. The literature indicates that the main reason for lack of funding is that higher education does not do a good job of selling itself and thus suffers from a poor image. All signs point to an increasingly competitive future for educational institutions. As competition grows for quality students and faculty, funding, research grants, donations, legislative recognition, alumni support, corporate support, media recognition, and visibility, institutions will become increasingly concerned about their images and public opinion. They will need to maintain distinct positions in the competitive non-profit marketplace, much as corporations strive to achieve and maintain product positions in the competitive for-profit marketplace. Success in the marketplace largely depends on how an institution has been, is, and will be perceived. This study attempts to determine the image of higher education in Louisiana among selected publics by developing an image survey which could be adopted by institutions of higher education. Use of the survey on an ongoing basis will allow institutions to determine their individual images at periodic intervals while also giving insight to how various constituencies view higher education as a whole. If the image of an institution does not improve or shows negative trends, that institution's public relations programming can be adjusted to address any negative perceptions. The study concludes by recommending a structure for a proposed public relations plan for public higher education in Louisiana which utilizes the concept of business/higher education partnerships in order to make the case for higher education in regard to funding and improving higher education's image.