The value of an Obama commencement speech

President Obama delivers remarks during Morehouse College 2013 commencement at Morehouse College on May 19, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.

President Obama will be giving the commencement speech at UC Irvine this June. You’d hope the President would have valuable advice for new graduates. But Jeffrey Papa, President of SimpsonScarborough, a higher education marketing firm, wants everyone to remember that “higher Education is a business.”

 So, what would be the value, and cost, of a Presidential speech at your school?

VALUE: $1,000,000 worth of marketing

Jeffrey Papa of SimpsonScarborough says schools can spend up to a million dollars on a marketing campaign for just one project.

VALUE: Lots of media coverage

There were over 400 stories about UC Irvine’s commencement this Thursday, with many more coming before now and the actual event in June.

VALUE: Street cred, prestige

Dan Hurley with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities says it's unlikely the school could find another speaker who'd be as much of a media magnet as President Obama. But academic institutions need to strike a delicate balance between looking like a prestigious institution, and still getting the word out.

COST: $1,200,000 on stadium

UC Irvine had to get a stadium large enough to accommodate its special graduation.

COST: Thousands on security

Though the school isn't sure what the exact tab is, security for POTUS is figured in to its $1.2 million stadium deal. Dan Hurley says while the White House isn't charging the school, there's a lot of advance work with security detail that has an institution’s staff running hard in the days leading up to a visit.

The President needs a good speech. Help him out: What’s the best commencement speech advice you’ve ever heard?

About the author

Sally Herships is a regular contributor to Marketplace.


I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...

Sustainability Coverage

  • The Kendeda Fund
  • Wealth & Poverty Coverage

  • The Ford Foundation