Roy Summerford


AUBURN -- A new survey on the image of Auburn University within Alabama points out the importance of AU alumni in building support for the university within the state, says Betty DeMent, vice president for Alumni and Development.

In a statewide survey by the AU Center for Governmental Services, 81 percent of the respondents agreed that Auburn graduates play an important role in the respondent's community and half agreed that AU graduates play an important role in the respondentıs line of work.

"It is good to see that the people of Alabama recognize the positive impact Auburn graduates have on their communities and in their professions," said DeMent. "Faculty and students need to be aware of how important an active alumni base is for the university."

DeMent said the survey points out that alumni and their families are loyal and effective advocates for Auburn throughout the state. "Auburn alumni are proud of the university and are often influential in their communities and in their professions," she added. "The survey results bear this out and they show how important it is for us to maintain good communications with the alumni."

The survey's findings will provide insights as Alumni and Development seeks ways to expand its communications with alumni, she added.

With 66,000 AU graduates throughout Alabama and many in leadership roles, they would be hard for other state residents to ignore, she said.

"The people in those communities, businesses and professions see Auburn alumni in leadership roles in their professions and in their communities, as well as at the state level."

One reason that Auburn received high ratings in virtually all categories of the survey, she said, is that Auburn alumni and their families are very supportive of Auburn in their communities.

"Our alumni are an important constituency, and the farther you get from campus, the more important they become," she added. "It is important that we keep them informed about the university, because they are the university's best ambassadors in their local communities."

About 20 percent of the survey's respondents had a family member who attended Auburn. Those respondents showed a greater familiarity with AU and were more supportive of the university in their responses than the general public.

While 90 percent of persons without an Auburn connection agreed that Auburn provides essential services to the state, and 80 percent of those without an Auburn connection agreed with the statement that Auburn is one of the best universities in the nation, responses were even higher from those family included Auburn alumni.

Of those with family connections to Auburn, 98 percent said AU provides essential services to the state, and 89 percent rate Auburn among the best universities in the nation.

One area which could affect state funding for Auburn is the public's perception of return on investment. Although 94 percent of those with family ties to Auburn and 86 percent of those without such ties agreed that the state receives a good return on its investment in Auburn, there was a major difference between the two groups in their level of agreement.

While a slim majority, 52 percent, of those without a family connection to Auburn strongly agreed that Auburn provides a good return for its investment, three- fourths of those with Auburn family ties strongly agreed with the statement. Compared to those holding strong beliefs, the 34 percent of those without family ties to AU and the 19 percent of those with such ties would be less likely to take action in support of their beliefs. Thus, persons with family ties to Auburn would be more predisposed to contact legislators or take other action on behalf of additional state funding for Auburn.

Questions about funding illustrated sharp differences between respondents with and those without family ties to Auburn. Almost two-thirds, 65 percent, of those with family ties to AU felt that Auburn should receive increased financial support from the state. Less than half, 47 percent, of those without family ties to the university felt the same way.

Gaps between persons with and without Auburn connections revealed in those questions illustrate the importance of maintaining close ties to Auburn alumni, said DeMent.

"Auburn alumni and their families are immensely loyal to the university, and they are often the voice of Auburn in their communities," she said. "Anything we can do to improve communication with our alumni will have implications for Auburn's support by the state as a whole."

The results are based on telephone responses by 400 randomly selected adult Alabamians in April by the Center for Governmental Servicesı Survey Research Laboratory. A CGS report states that the same survey times would be expected to produce the same results, within plus or minus 5 percent, 95 times out of 100.

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CONTACT: For survey methodology: Karen Khodadadi at Center for Governmental Services, 334/844-1914. For uses of results: Pete Pepinsky, University Relations, 334/844-9999, and/or Vice President for Outreach David Wilson, 334/844-5700.