In 2003, AllianceBernstein had paid the then-largest fine in the history of the SEC. The firm desperately needed an issue with which to reengage with advisors and the media alike— an issue that would highlight a core competency and align with a critical marketplace need. With the second largest state-mandated 529 plan, the company had just such an issue: college savings.


With 90% of new jobs requiring a post-secondary education, access to higher education is critical to Americans ability to compete. But with college costs rising faster than inflation and household incomes, most families’ college savings efforts have come up way short. That has left many young adults with an unfortunate choice: put your college dreams on hold or fund them with debilitating levels of debt. America’s families needed a wake-up call, and in 2006, AllianceBernstein decided to act.

What We Did

To help families understand the importance of saving early and effectively for college, we knew we had to demonstrate the profound effects of failing to do so. The solution emerged in the form of a research-based program designed to uncover the causes and effects of families’ college savings shortfalls. In concert with an award-winning PR campaign, Tiller and AllianceBernstein developed a robust suite of educational resources including a website, brochures, presentations, calculators and quizzes.


College Debt Crunch was voted the No. 1 public relations program in America in 2006 by the panel of journalists judging the prestigious Bulldog Awards. It received widespread coverage, from BusinessWeek to “MTV News”, the AP to Bloomberg, Money to Family Circle magazines. Financial advisors ordered in excess of 20,000 educational brochures and the special college debt calculator AllianceBernstein developed was named one of the financial industry’s best educational tools. Importantly, the campaign put AllianceBernstein back into a positive light.