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Betting on philanthropy

and winning big

The cost of college has increased by more than 25% in the last 10 years. America’s third oldest college was tired of old “prestige pricing” and ready to break the mold—so they did.

the challenge

Higher education, lower tuition

St. John’s College, established in 1696, is the third oldest college in the United States, with campuses in Annapolis and Santa Fe and curricula virtually unchanged since 1937. By fall 2018 base tuition had inflated to a cost of $52,000 per year, and school leadership decided to take a stand against “prestige pricing” in higher education. They created a new philanthropy-centered financial model, lowering tuition to $35,000 per year, and launching a $300 million capital campaign to double the college’s endowment and fund tuition reduction.

the Solution

Our team developed and executed a national PR strategy and message platform for more than a dozen different audiences. We also created and placed paid digital ad campaigns in key markets throughout the academic year.


The result was an unprecedented level of positive coverage for St. John’s. We broke the news nationally in The New York Times with a column by Frank Bruni followed by coverage in several national outlets. The paid digital ad campaigns, designed to increase interest and enrollment, outperformed college and university-industry benchmark conversion rates, and applications for the fall 2019 semester exceeded targets.