The College of Western Idaho denies that it used an expensive student fee-funded mailer to help tip the scales of a $180 million bond proposal in its favor.
The full-page mailers, complete with smiling students and mock-ups of the college’s expansion plans, hit Ada and Canyon County mailboxes days ago, just before voters decide if they will pony up the millions.
Mark Browning, CWI’s Vice President of Communications and Government Relations, told IdahoReporter.com Monday, the mailers were to serve two purposes: Promote awareness that will aid the school’s ongoing accreditation process, plus drive student enrollment in spring classes, which opens next week.
The problem: The mailer mentions nothing about student enrollment.
On one side of the flyer, the document touts the school’s exploding enrollment and job placement results, plus it notes the school’s purported need to expand facilities.
The document also states how the school pays more than $2 million in rent each year for temporary learning space.
The flyer’s one and only web link directs recipients to CWIDifference.com, where interested people can find “more information about CWI’s impact and future growth.”
CWIDifference.com doesn’t mention anything about the spring enrollment period, but it does offer more materials and content that might sway voters toward a vote for the tax increase.
According to the school’s estimates, the mailer cost at least $31,000. Of that, printing cost more than $11,000, while postage -- at even a non-profit rate -- cost an estimated $20,000.
The mailer serves as just a piece of an expanded public relations effort by the school this year.
In March, trustees approved a plan to spend $370,000 on advertising, marketing and communications efforts. Browning said of that amount, the college has spent an estimated $326,000.
The budget for the year-long marketing blitz included $30,000 for signage, $65,000 for a project manager, $50,000 for strategic advertising, nearly $20,000 for events and $40,000 for television and radio ads.
The school blew the top off its TV and radio spending, exceeding that line item by more than $74,000.
CWI’s bond measure needs support from two-thirds of Ada and Canyon County voters to pass. If approved, the bond would cost more than $255 million, a total which includes the interest payments on the 25-year debt.
Funds from the school’s strategic reserve fund, once filled by student fees, covered the marketing campaign’s costs. CWI no longer charges students the fee to fill the reserve fund.
Note: The original version of the article said taxpayer money covered the marketing campaign’s costs. The above version has been updated for accuracy. IR regrets the error.