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UVI Launches First YouTube Campaign, Advertising Free Tuition in the Virgin Islands

St. Thomas — The University of the Virgin Islands began rolling out a massive ad campaign on YouTube to promote free tuition for your first degree. Beginning with the 2019-2020 academic year, students who graduated from secondary school in the U.S. Virgin Islands will have access to the newly adopted VI Higher Education Scholarship Program.

First Territory to Offer Universal Scholarship Program

The Virgin Islands became the first U.S. territory to offer a universal scholarship program for higher education after the free tuition program was signed into law by former Governor Kenneth Mapp, before the outgoing 32nd Legislature had its final session.

“With the passage and signing of Act 8155, the Virgin Islands becomes the first Territory and the University of the Virgin Islands now becomes the first Historically Black College and University (HBCU) that provides comprehensive free tuition to students within its state or jurisdiction,” said President of the University of the Virgin Islands, Dr. David Hall. “This is one of the few programs in the nation that provides free tuition for baccalaureate degrees.”

The University of the Virgin Islands is a public, HBCU located in the United States Virgin Islands. The average cost after aid is 12K and the graduation rate sits at 26% according to scorecards from  the U.S. Department of Education.

Free tuition at UVI is available to anyone who received a high school diploma in the Virgin Islands, regardless of year.

Approximately 1,700 students are expected to qualify to receive the tuition benefit, according to President Hall, potentially helping to increase the percentage of Virgin Islanders who have college degrees and move the territory to a “more appropriate” level of degree-holders in the population.

YouTube Ads

The university is now seeking to ramp up student enrollments using social media, by highlighting the government funded program. Times have changed, and so has technology. As more Virgin Islanders cut the cord and transition to more flexible streaming options, companies and organizations in the Virgin Islands are spending more advertising dollars on YouTube to reach potential customers — YouTube is the largest video streaming platform in the world, offering more video content than Netflix or Hulu.

Governor Albert Bryan’s campaign last year prioritized social media and alternative forms of media to reach voters. The Bryan-Roach campaign might have unintentionally set the bar for marketing in the Virgin Islands in 2019 after rolling out a slew of high quality video ads in 2018.


Leading up to the August Democratic Primary election in the territory, the General Election in November and the runoff election that followed, the Bryan-Roach campaign heavily flooded YouTube with targeted ads encouraging voter to #ChangeCourseNow.

It was the first time in modern Virgin Islands history a candidate for governor used YouTube to reach potential voters — State of the Territory News expects this trend to rise in future elections and spill over into promoting local events and concerts. Local organizations like WAPA, VIYA and MSI Building Supplies have joined the wave, running advertisements on the video platform.

What’s most interesting about YouTube is how it differs from traditional television. As an example, if I were a plumber with a plumbing business, I’d probably want to run an advertisement.

If I approached a traditional cable provider, or even a radio station that accepts ads, my options would be pretty limited. The advertisements I paid for would show to every single person who has a cable subscription as well as those tuning in via radio. Most people (like myself) paying rent might not need to contact a plumber, since it’s generally the landlords job.

YouTube on the other hand, is extremely precise in its targeting. If I ran the same advertising about my plumbing business, I could make sure only people interested in plumbing services see it and only those people click on the advertisement.

I’d only be paying on a ‘per click’ basis and I would also skip over YouTube subscribers that don’t need a plumber. YouTube is also an excellent way for a small business to maintain an ad budget that won’t break the bank.

2019, the Year of Marketing in the Virgin Islands

Aside from running ads on YouTube, which recently rolled out YouTube TV nationwide last month, local brands and organizations are producing higher quality advertisements and more elaborate marketing campaigns on the platform.

As Wendy’s prepares to open the doors to its new Four Winds location on St. Thomas, the company is also ramping up its presence online by reviving its Instagram profile for its restaurants in the Virgin Islands. Wendy’s is already the King — Queen? — of social media and the gatekeeper of Twitter shade.

Three of the largest fast food chains in the world are duking it out, McDonald’s partnership with local safaris last year were the first signs of a Wendy’s expansion on St. Thomas. This has nothing to do with YouTube ads or UVI, but can you see a trend here? It’s digital marketing.

The full-tuition scholarships can be applied towards study for a student’s first associate’s or bachelor’s degree. In order for new students to qualify for the funds, they must apply for full-time admission to UVI no later than the published application deadline and must have applied for federal assistance through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). For 2019, the deadline for applying for admission to the University is March 1, 2019. New students applying for admission in the Spring 2020 semester must apply by October 15, 2019.

Application deadline is March 1, 2019. For more information see UVI’s Free Tuition Policies & Procedures.