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The Tide is High

University of Alabama Printing Services uses its offset printing power to help the Crimson Tide achieve record enrollment.

January 2012 By Erik Cagle
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OFTEN TIMES, when a university in-plant experiences a growth surge, much of the credit starts with the person at the very top of the educational food chain. In the case of the University of Alabama, that honor belongs to President Dr. Robert Witt.

When Dr. Witt took the Crimson Tide's reins in 2003, enrollment stood at 19,000. His aggressive growth initiative has resulted in a nearly 100 percent enrollment increase to 35,000 this past fall. In an age of multi-channel marketing, it was the humble yet time-tested success of printed recruiting materials that played a significant role in the population surge at Tuscaloosa, Ala.'s legendary 180-year-old institution.

Yes, Bama is back, and University of Alabama Printing Services has played no small role in the recruitment renaissance. The in-plant, which boasts 31 full-time workers and 20 part-time students in its employ, has facilitated the student surge by producing recruiting brochures and mailers (both mass and direct mail) for the university's 13 schools. In doing so, Printing Services has defied trends, with long-run offset work done on a pair of four-color Sakurai presses. Higher print volumes and larger printed pieces keep the offset gear humming.

"We've exceeded enrollment records in each of the last seven years," notes Bill May, director of Printing Services. "And it's not just student recruiting [fostering growth]; many of our run lengths are more cost-effective to produce offset than digital. It's more cost effective to run offset when it exceeds a few thousand copies. The size of many materials exceeds the sheet size of digital printing [13x19˝] as well."

Aside from recruiting materials, Printing Services churns out products in support of the school's athletics department, from media guides and posters to ticket office materials and clinical literature. Another area of support is University Advancement, the school's fundraising division, along with general printed products (e.g., business cards, letterhead, envelopes). In terms of marketing communications, Printing Services produces magazines, alumni literature and brochures for a variety of organizations affiliated with the university.

Busy Digital Division

It's not to say that digital printing is the red-headed stepchild for Printing Services, which has a $4.4 million budget. The in-plant's digital division is led by a Canon imagePRESS C6010VP digital color press, backed by two Konica Minolta 5520s, an Océ CS665 Pro and an Océ VarioPrint 6160 high-volume black-and-white machine. Also under the auspices of Printing Services is the satellite Crimson Copies unit, located in the student union building. Plus, May's department oversees 650 black-and-white and color copiers across campus, along with campus network printing (Uniprint).

 
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