Situation / Challenge

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) comprises nearly 400 member institutions across America. But their unique role in our higher education system isn't well understood or appreciated by the general public, state lawmakers, or opinion leaders. Ongoing budget struggles, disinvestment in public higher education, and escalating tuition challenge these state colleges and universities (SCUs). They also lacked a unifying SCU brand and message that would help stakeholders understand and appreciate what separates these unique places from other types of higher education institutions.

Our Strategic Approach

AASCU turned to Sage to develop a brand-driven strategy that would raise awareness of the value of SCUs to prospective students and families, as well as foster understanding by policymakers about how these institutions contribute to local/regional development.

Sage’s partnership with AASCU began with a two-phased pilot to gather input from stakeholders and test SCU messaging with select members. Based on the pilot's success, Sage rolled out AASCU’s “Opportunities for All” campaign nationwide. The campaign promoted the value of SCUs as a higher education choice that creates brighter futures for students from all backgrounds who are willing to work hard to be successful.

Besides creating the SCU brand architecture and messaging, Sage developed a campaign logo and an “Opportunities for All” National Campaign Toolkit to help SCUs with local implementation. Sage also developed an outreach plan that included:

  • An Early Adopters Program where Sage serves as a advisor to members on how to incorporate SCU branding

  • Routine webinars

  • Newsletters

  • AASCU conference presentations

  • Media relations outreach

  • Social media programs


Within the first year of rollout, 50 SCUs pledged their participation and incorporated AASCU messaging in their communications. Campaign metrics show an increase in webinar, newsletter and Early Adopter Program engagement, and an increase in adoption of the SCU brand.