Market To Market: A+ Promotions

If you’re looking to break into the education market, there are many opportunities for you to explore. In the United States, there are an estimated 100,000 public schools, 34,000 private schools and 7,000 postsecondary schools, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. 

In addition to sheer size, the U.S. also spends more on education per student than any other country in the world. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. spends an average of $16,268 per year to educate a student from primary through secondary education, a figure well above the global average of $10,759. 

The market is ripe with opportunities for campaigns focused on hiring and retaining educators. Between 2014 and 2024, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects nearly 1.9 million job openings for teachers of preschool through postsecondary school.

In many ways, the education sector looks as rosy as an apple on a teacher’s desk. Drop-out rates are at historic lows and high school graduation rates are at all-time highs. In 1940, only 24 percent of people age 25 and older had finished four years of high school, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Today, 90 percent of individuals in that age group have completed high school. 

More people are also attending college than ever before. According to data from Statista, 146 million college students attended public colleges in 2017 while 5.1 million students were enrolled in private colleges. By 2028, these figures are projected to increase to 15 million and 5.3 million, respectively. 

Whether you want to impact students and teachers in your city’s school system, or you have your sights set on higher education, you can use promotional products to make a difference. Read on to learn more about this thriving marketplace and the opportunities to create smart promotions for your education clients. 


Money matters, and most schools continue to be strapped for cash. According to the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), education has been underfunded by $19 billion over the past decade. K-12 education is underfunded in every state and in 38 states, teachers made less in 2018 than they did in 2009. 

The financial issue doesn’t stop in higher education. Tuition and fees for a two-year degree in 2017 rose at three times the rate of inflation when compared with 2008, putting college out of reach for many degree-seekers. 

Beyond these issues, teachers are experiencing more stress than ever. More than half (61 percent) of educators say their work is “always” or “often” stressful, compared with roughly 30 percent of American workers in general, according to the AFT. 

Most of their stress stems from feeling as though they have little influence over school decisions. Educators are also stressed about working long hours with unbalanced pay. The National Center for Education Statistics found that almost all public-school teachers (94 percent) have spent their own money on school supplies without getting reimbursed.

Considering the persistent stress, it’s no surprise that many educators are walking away from the profession. In 2018, roughly one million public education teachers left their jobs—the highest rate of any year on record, according to a Labor Department report. The result? Shortages of teachers nationwide and a dropping number of education majors. 

Teachers who remain in the classroom aren’t always showing up in the best way for their students. Nearly two-thirds say they are not engaged or are mentally and emotionally disconnected from their teaching role and their students’ needs. 

Teachers aren’t the only ones leaving their roles—principals are also increasingly packing up and moving on. Research from the National Association of School Principals shows that one out of every two principals is not retained beyond their third year of leading a school. By 2022, the demand for K-12 principals is projected to grow six percent nationwide, putting even more of a financial strain on districts. It can often cost between $36,000 to more than $300,000 to recruit, hire, mentor and provide continuing education for principals. 

When thinking about how to approach schools as potential clients, consider how you can address their greatest needs. Most schools are facing teacher and principal shortages that require immediate attention. You can start by looking for ways to reduce stress and help school professionals perform at their best. This could mean working with schools to develop teacher self-care plans or helping create more positive working conditions.  


U.S. News & World Report ranked states on performance in higher education as well as primary and secondary schooling and pre-K education. These 10 states rank among the best in the nation when it comes to educating students.

  1. Massachusetts
  2. New Jersey
  3. Florida
  4. Washington
  5. New Hampshire
  6. Nebraska
  7. Virginia
  8. Vermont
  9. Iowa
  10. Utah

Source: U.S. News & World Report


Public K-12 schools across the country are increasingly mandating uniforms. Here’s a breakdown of where uniforms are required:

  • 22% of elementary schools
  • 19% of middle schools
  • 10% of high schools  

Source: National Center for Education Statistics


Schools in some states have a bigger bullying problem than others. When bullying happens, the average public school can incur more than $2.3 million in lost funding and expenses due to lower attendance and various types of disciplinary actions. The states below are challenged with the biggest bullying problems, making them ideal candidates for anti-bullying campaigns. 

  1. Louisiana
  2. Arkansas
  3. Missouri
  4. Idaho
  5. Alaska
  6. North Dakota
  7. Wisconsin
  8. West Virginia
  9. Michigan
  10. Wyoming

Sources: WalletHub


More than half (57 percent) of schools have a security presence, up from 42 percent a decade ago. About 90 percent of law enforcement officers stationed at schools regularly carry firearms. 

Source: National Center for Education Statistics


Five states have the lowest dropout rate meaning students are most likely to graduate—and five have the highest dropout rate meaning students are more likely to leave before earning a diploma.

Lowest Dropout Rates

  1. Iowa
  2. New Jersey
  3. Tennessee
  4. Kentucky
  5. Texas

Highest Dropout Rates

  1. Louisiana
  2. Arizona
  3. Oregon
  4. District of Columbia
  5. New Mexico

Source: WalletHub


Even when accounting for inflation, the cost of tuition, room and board has more than doubled since 1971. Today, the average bachelor’s degree graduate finishes school with a student loan debt of $37,172, which is up from $20,000 just 13 years ago. Here are some key facts to know about student loan debt:

  • One in four Americans (an estimated 44.7 million people) have student loan debt
  • The current total U.S. student loan debt stands at an estimated $1.53 trillion
  • The average student loan repayment is $393 per month
  • There’s a bright spot—the U.S. government will forgive $207.4 billion in student loan debt for Americans who take out loans over the next decade

Sources: Nitro, The Wall Street Journal


In many states, educators make more than the average American worker. Here’s where teachers take home top dollar.

  1. New York
    Average teacher pay: $83,933
    State average: $61,870

  2. Massachusetts
    Average teacher pay: $80,550
    State average: $63,910

  3. California
    Average teacher pay: $78,757
    State average: $59,150

  4. Connecticut
    Average teacher pay: $76,197
    State average: $60,780

  5. Alaska
    Average teacher pay: $75,920
    State average: $58,710

Source: Yahoo! Finance


Public school spending depends on many factors, including how much money schools are allocated and how much of that money goes into teacher salaries and benefits. At $23,091, New York leads the nation in per-pupil spending. Utah spends the least per student at $7,179. 

These locations are also budgeted to spend at least $15,500 per student this year:

  • District of Columbia - $21,974
  • Connecticut - $19,322
  • New Jersey - $18,920
  • Vermont - $18,290
  • Alaska - $17,838
  • Wyoming - $16,537
  • Massachusetts - $16,197
  • Rhode Island - $15,943
  • Pennsylvania - $15,798
  • New Hampshire - $15,683

Source: U.S. Census Bureau


In 1975, more than one-fifth (22 percent) of college students majored in education—a higher percentage than any other major. In 2015, fewer than one in 10 college students pursued education degrees. As a result, schools across the country face staggering teacher shortages.

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Department of Education


Talk to schools about celebrating teachers on National Teacher Day on Tuesday, May 5, 2020. It takes place during Teacher Appreciation Week, celebrated this year on May 4-8, 2020. 


Use promotional products to help implement and promote these activities and make the experience more memorable for all involved.

In the community:

  • Run congratulatory messages on electronic signs outside banks or other businesses, or on billboards, banners or storefront signs.
  • Businesses can offer teachers discounts on purchases made on Teacher Day.
  • Invite all teachers to a reception in their honor, hosted by the mayor, school board, school administrators, Chamber of Commerce or another group. Make it extra memorable with a take-home gift.
  • Invite teachers to a before-school “coffee, juice and pastries” salute hosted at a local grocery store or another business, or even in a school parking lot (think tailgate party).

In the school, work with a school volunteer organization to:

  • Hang a sign on each teacher’s classroom door, saluting them by name.
  • Have the National Honor Society, Student Council or other student groups provide punch and cookies for the teacher’s lounge on Teacher Day.
  • Give teachers candy, apples or other food gifts with appropriate notes attached (e.g., fortune cookies with a note about how fortunate the school is to have a teacher of such high caliber).
  • Provide balloon bouquets and flowers for every teachers’ lounge.
  • Set up a lunchtime relaxation and rejuvenation “spa,” where teachers are treated to hand, foot, back and neck massages, perhaps while being serenaded by a student or parent playing a mellow cello.

Source: National Education Association



Ideal for campus bookstores and university campaigns, the Express Backpack 2.0 features an integrated iPad/tablet compartment, an exterior water bottle pocket and a protective laptop compartment that fits up to 16-inch laptops.

Mobile Edge  /  PPAI 314937, S1  /


Get students paws-itively pumped for school with weiner dog crayons. Each crayon comes on an imprinted card to maximize a school’s messaging.

Jornik Manufacturing Corp.  /  PPAI 111065, S6   /


The key points – social media hazards card complements lessons on how teens can safely and responsibly use social media. It folds to the size of a credit card, allowing students to tuck it into a wallet or bag.

Fields Manufacturing / PPAI 111951, S9  /


Welcome teachers to a new school year with the rolltop six-can lunch cooler. Inspired by wet/dry bags, this cooler features an insulated PEVA lining and a front pocket for stashing extra snacks. It rolls up and clips to secure a lunch. 

Leed’s  /  PPAI 112361, S13  /


The Sanibel double-wall acrylic tumbler adds a zing of color to any campus promotion. This 22-ounce tumbler includes a color-coordinating straw and a lid with a thumb-slide closure. Get it in four on-trend colors or opt for black or clear.

VisionUSA  /  PPAI 112771, S6  /


Teachers can encourage classroom participation or reward good deeds with color change pencils. Available in assorted colors, these fun pencils feature a gold ferrule and a variety of eraser colors. 

Goldstar  /  PPAI 114031, S7   /


With a CheckFast design that opens flat during airport security, the Solo Bond 15.6-inch Sleeve seamlessly transitions from the lecture hall to the airport. It’s made from durable neoprene, features a soft fleece lining and is available in three colors.

Logomark, Inc.  /  PPAI 110898, S12  /


Show appreciation to school volunteers or booster club members with the assorted bark box. Each customizable box includes a mix of creamy chocolate topped with caramel bits, crushed cookies, marshmallows and sprinkles. 

Chocolate Inn/Taylor & Grant/Lanco  /  PPAI 111662, S7  /


While public school funding comes primarily from property taxes, private schools rely on tuition, endowments, donations and grants. Whether you’re working with a private preschool or a private university, these schools need enrollments and donors just as businesses need customers. Here are a few activities promotional products can help promote to bring in more dollars. 

Elementary schools can … bring on the fun with a campus carnival. Invite local restaurants to serve food for a participation fee and ask them to chip in a percentage of their profits. Schools can raise money through admission, games and activities, and spread the word about their campus or specific campaign through promotional items.  

High schools can … roll out the red carpet for a talent competition. Get students and staff to donate towards the goal of unveiling a hidden talent from a principal or dean. Encourage donations by offering different tiers of promotional products as thank-you gifts. 

Colleges and universities can …connect with alumni through alumni appreciation events. Whether it’s a black-tie affair or a casual night out sponsored by a local bar or restaurant, schools can raise money and engage with some of their biggest donors with school-logoed gifts. 


Audrey Sellers is a Dallas-area-based writer and former associate editor of PPB.

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