Capital Community College, located in the inner city of Hartford, Connecticut, needed to increase its Latino student population to 25% of the school’s overall total enrollment to qualify for a Federal grant called Title V, which would add approximately 3 million dollars to the school’s budget. To succeed, they needed to effectively double their Latino student population relative to their registered student population in less than two months. Receiving the grant money would enable the college to keep costs low and support its stated mission “to provide quality affordable education to diverse residents of metropolitan Hartford.”


A cross-departmental focus group First Experience Communications (FEC) conducted in mid-April 2004 to identify public relations and marketing needs at Capital Community College revealed the $3 million Federal grant opportunity (focus group summary enclosed). The college president, senior staff and all focus group participants agreed to FEC’s recommendation that priority be given to public relations and marketing efforts that addressed the grant opportunity. Analysis of student data showed that in a typical year, 400 to 700 students may de-register, making both recruitment and retention of the Latino target audience primary goals of an enrollment campaign. Secondary research drew on a study by Sallie Mae, the student lending organization, which revealed that about 75% of young Hispanic adults who stopped their education at a high-school diploma may have attended college if they had more information about how to pay for it. The study, identified in a Wall Street Journal article (4/5/04) titled “Hispanics Lack College-Aid Facts,” also indicated that Hispanic parents preferred literature in Spanish, while Hispanic students preferred to receive materials written in English.
Background research was conducted to learn how financial aid works and when students needed to apply to receive consideration for approval and admission. These deadlines were then compared with the Federal grant deadlines to determine the necessary timeline for implementing a grassroots Latino enrollment campaign.
Related quantitative research FEC conducted during the last quarter of 2003 indicated the primary ways Hispanics prefer to get information (word of mouth, sent home from school, direct mail and through community hubs or community-based organizations). This was referenced for communication planning.


In planning the enrollment campaign, First Experience Communications gave special consideration to the importance of grassroots Latino community involvement and ownership in the ultimate success of the campaign. Established objectives:

  • To increase the Latino student population of Capital Community College to 25% of the school’s overall enrollment by September 2004.
  • To launch a grassroots Latino enrollment campaign by June 2004 to allow time for students to make a July 2004 application deadline for financial aid.
  • To position Capital Community College as a leader in understanding and addressing the Latino culture and their issues related to pursuing higher education.
  • To form relationships with trusted leaders and organizations serving the local Latino community to build ongoing support for Latino student enrollment at Capital Community College.

Identified Target Audiences:

  • Hispanic students seeking higher education
  • Hispanic leaders and officials
  • Hispanic community based organizations
  • Area high schools and pre-college programs
  • Hispanic students that have applied before and de-registered
  • Hispanic students that have expressed interest
  • Hispanic students seeking GED or ESL
  • Hispanic parents


Recruit the support of trusted leaders, organizations and media serving the local Latino community to “spread the word” on the membership campaign. Create a direct mail campaign to Hispanic students and parents that had previously expressed interest in the community college but were not currently enrolled. Use testimonials from and photos of Latino graduates or students of Capital Community College to create a direct connection with the Latino community and boost credibility of the message in a direct response brochure. Create multiple response avenues to facilitate enrollment and a tracking mechanism to measure response. Capitalize on the opportunity and value of the potential $3 million grant to create a sense of urgency and build support for the campaign


First Experience Communications worked with Capital Community College to identify influential community members and organizations that could help us promote a grassroots membership campaign. FEC wrote a script (enclosed) and trained an internal staff phone team to contact and form alliances with more than 50 influential Latino leaders, organizations and media to generate support and commitment within their Latino community.
An interview team and photographer went to the campus to talk with identified Latino students, capture their success stories and comments, and take photographs in a campus setting to include in promotional material. FEC’s creative team developed a brochure (enclosed) in Spanish and English that focused on the opportunities community colleges offered, available financial aid and highlighted student success stories. A postage-paid response card was included in the brochure. People could also respond via a dedicated phone line or e-mail. A letter from the college president was written to directly ask for support from the Latino “influencers” who had been contacted to determine the quantity of brochures they would need for distribution (copy enclosed).
Capital Community College created mailing lists totaling 462 Latino applicants that had applied the prior two semesters but were not currently enrolled. These prospects received a first-class mailing with letter and new brochure. Customized return address labels were printed with the president’s name and title to create an instant impression of importance of the mailing and increase the likelihood of recipients opening and reading it.
Brochures were personally delivered in quantities requested from the phone contacts, with the president’s letter to members of over 50 different local Latino organizations and community leaders, including the mayor of Hartford who is a member of the Latino community. Special accommodations were made to expedite deliveries of a large quantity of brochures to take advantage of a conference and special event being held that week; both involving large groups of Latino members. The community college liaison to high schools received 300 brochures to distribute to Hartford area high schools. A dedicated phone line was set up and monitored by staff in the English as a Second Language program office
Media outreach efforts targeted Hispanic media for press coverage on the membership campaign and Federal grant opportunity. A special announcement was designed and posted on the Hispanic Professional Network’s website. The announcement was also e-mailed to the organization’s exclusive e-distribution list.


This grassroots approach helped form relationships between the college and leaders of the Hispanic community for long-term benefits. Personal conversations by the phone team built excitement over the opportunity to bring $3 million into the local community college and positioned the campaign as “a cause” to rally around. The list of identified Latino leaders and organizations expanded through recommendations offered by the people contacted. The one-on-one conversations also uncovered two valuable, and previously unknown, opportunities to distribute brochures to large local groups of Latinos meeting for a conference and a special event that week.
Result: Capital Community College doubled its full time equivalent Latino population from 216 to 429 students from July 23, 2004 to August 27, 2004. This put the college’s Latino enrollment at 25.52% of the school’s total enrollment by the September 1st deadline, qualifying them for the $3 million Federal grant. Ongoing efforts are now in place to maintain the level of Latino enrollment at 25% so Capital Community College may continue to qualify for the Federal grant in future years.