by David Safier
USA Today has an article about the amount of money for-profit online schools spend on advertising to lure in new students.
The USA TODAY analysis finds that 10 of the largest for-profit operators have spent an estimated $94.4 million on ads since 2007. The largest, Virginia-based K12 Inc., has spent about $21.5 million in just the first eight months of 2012.
The story focuses on K12 Inc., which has about 275,000 students nationwide, including about 4,300 in its Arizona Virtual Academy (AZVA). [Interesting Aside: AZVA's students are 77% White, 14% Hispanic, 6% Black, 2% Asian and 2% Native American.] The corporation's emphasis on advertising shouldn't be surprising given its churn rate (students who leave every year) of 30%. That means it needs about 82,500 new students a year just to stay even.
The article analyses where the ad money goes and concludes much of it gets mixed in with the breakfast cereal/toys ads on children's TV.
K12 has spent an estimated $631,600 to advertise on Nickelodeon, $601,600 on The Cartoon Network and $671,400 on MeetMe.com, a social networking site popular with teens.
Oddly, it also spent $3,000 at a website that claims to be "the Web's largest community for dark alternative culture": VampireFreaks.com.
Remember, we're talking about taxpayer-funded ad money here.