Humboldt State has officially been erased and replaced, but at what cost?

$983,000 for *checks notes* additional campus signage?
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by Ione Dellos

From the new signs at the campus entrance to the Cal Poly header on your “Possible COVID Exposure” email from the Student Health Center, the new polytechnic status of Humboldt has been hammered home to students many times in the past few months. Despite the many open forums and countless emails the University has sent to students explaining the new polytechnic status, does anyone really know how much things cost?

Starting in August of 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom approved a $458 million investment in Cal Poly Humboldt. The allocation of funds is supposed to overhaul the university, with investments in updating aging infrastructure, adding several new majors by fall 2023, and several new buildings on campus. The impressive financial package also includes a yearly infusion of $25 million from the state, which Humboldt has built into its initial planning estimates.

Graphic by Ione Dellos
Graphic by Ione Dellos

Initially, the $25 million will be used primarily for one-time spending initiatives, like rebranding and marketing the campus. For the 2021-2022 school year alone, $1.3 million has been set aside for rebranding/marketing efforts. Another $665,000 has been set aside for rebranding through campus signage, and if you didn’t think all of the Cal Poly Humboldt signs seen while fighting for your life up the stairs to Founder’s Hall were excessive, the University has set aside $983,000 for additional campus signage for the 2022-2023 school year. This does coincide with the school’s budgeting plans, as 2021-2022 costs are supposed to cover program start-up costs, while 2022-2023 costs will ramp up with the ongoing new projects. Additionally, the 2022-2023 school year will cover the first round of faculty hiring ahead of the 2023 program launch.

Higher education marketing firm SimpsonScarborough is working with the University to “energize and elevate” their brand, as stated in a December email to students. They are rolling out a multiple-phase branding campaign. The campaign started last November with the announcement of Humboldt’s polytechnic status, and will continue for years to come as Humboldt aims to get their brand out to students nationwide. This is the start of a multiple-year effort that begins with extensive research with the campus community, and the full timeline is displayed below:

PHASE 1: November 15 – January 14, 2022
Transitional communications and marketing plan; audience research to inform the brand.

PHASE 2: January 14 – May 6, 2022
Brand strategy and development; creation of graphic identities; brand awareness campaign; prospective student recruitment collateral.

PHASE 3: May 6 – August 5, 2022
Refreshed digital presence and web templates; assessment of internal capacity and structures.

ONGOING EFFORT: Starting August 6, 2022
Sustained buildout and implementation of the brand through digital and traditional media, advertising strategies, media relations, and more.

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