We have argued here and elsewhere that developing institutional consensus on a value proposition is critical to success. This consensus should drive both the assessment of current programming and the development of program growth. Competition in higher education, especially in New England and the Upper Midwest, is becoming intense; and institutions cannot afford to be just another generic (comprehensive) institution. Trying to be everything to everyone will ultimately put the institution in the position of competing based on price and convenience, and that is not a strategy that will allow the institution to thrive in the long run.
In this series, we will be looking more closely at financial and programmatic models of higher education, presenting tools for understanding your institution’s performance through benchmarking, introducing concepts from financial analysis to help institutions analyze their mix of academic programs, looking at the challenges of introducing financial analysis techniques in academe, and looking at the concept of the institutional value proposition.
The next several years will be very challenging. Institutions faced with fiscal and enrollment challenges should be taking action to reset business models by taking a hard look at program mixes and administrative efficiencies. Mergers and partnerships are also viable strategies to increase the viability of such institutions. Failure to address these challenges at their onset will make campus closures more commonplace.