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10 Takeaways from Summer Seminar 2019

Last week in Minneapolis, senior administrators from private colleges and universities gathered to learn about market insights that foster more doing. Participants engaged in proactive thinking about the realities of the higher education marketplace and how to leverage market intelligence for institutional success and accomplishment.

1. When we encounter “do” moments, we need to take advantage of them. 
Opening remarks by co-hosts Jim Day and John Lawlor introduced “the spirit of do” as the conference’s theme, which prevailed whether the session was about market conditions impacting the state of higher ed or how to act on data to drive graduate success or how great advertising campaigns can reveal brand purpose.

2. To keep doing the same thing the same way is a bad idea when you’re faced with actual data showing it won’t work.
Author and economics professor Nathan Grawe discussed demographic changes that will cause a sharp drop in college enrollment numbers starting in 2025 and why dealing with them will require moving beyond the status quo.

3. Small private colleges are in greater jeopardy than other sectors when it comes to generating sufficient revenue.
Moody’s VP Susan Fitzgerald noted the growing mismatch between what students are charged and what it costs to educate them, which makes scale important and leaves small private colleges vulnerable in meeting their delivery expenses.

4. K-12 schools are ramping up their efforts to channel students through pathways for career readiness.
Young entrepreneur Joe Belsterling shared the implications for higher ed of his work as founder and CEO of MajorClarity, an education technology company devoted to helping ensure every student’s education leads to a successful career outcome.

5. We can shift our thinking from the status quo and find opportunity spaces using some simple techniques. 
Noting that innovation happens at the intersection of ideas, The Prouty Project’s Peter Bailey and Kristen Jonason advocated for encountering other cultures, learning differently, reversing assumptions, and trying on different perspectives. They also facilitated an interactive session with group exercises that spurred creativity.

6. Character skills could become a greater factor in the admissions process.Psychometrics expert Keith Wright described how elite 6-12 private schools have already devised an online character assessment tool to measure initiative, intellectual engagement, open-mindedness, resilience, self-control, social awareness, and teamwork.

7. Internal understanding of the purpose of your brand is as essential as telling it externally.
Branding guru Scott Bedbury, who developed the slogan “Just Do It” while at Nike, discussed how a clear, well executed purpose can bring together people within an institution—and then throughout the world.

8. A relationship-rich and work-integrated learning environment has the most impact on graduates’ career and life success.
Gallup Education’s Stephanie Marken explained the positive effect that workplace engagement has on alumni’s perceptions of their college’s value and noted how higher faculty engagement correlates with better student success.

9. Done well, career services can drive recruitment, retention, reputation, relevance, and ROI.
Career services practitioner Susan Brennan shared how Bentley University created a collaborative ecosystem that integrated community, curriculum, and career in a four-year progression and scaled it to include all students.

10. For today’s college students who want future career flexibility, it’s good advice to graduate with the absolute minimum of debt.
Marketplace economics correspondent Chris Farrell noted that while the financial benefits of a college education still exceed its cost, there’s a lot of variability (and thus risk) within the spectrum of earning outcomes.

In short, Summer Seminar 2019 did indeed provide market intelligence and inspiration as a catalyst for doing.


More Low-Income Students

A much larger share of undergraduates are in or near poverty than a generation ago, particularly at non-elite colleges. (Pew Research Center)

Investment Value of College

The average rate of return for a bachelor’s degree is down slightly due to rising costs, but remains high at around 14%. (Federal Reserve)

Debt Influences Occupation

Those with higher amounts of student loan debt tend to take jobs that pay more, but that they enjoy less. (NBER via Inside Higher Ed)


Lawlor Recommends

This year’s Summer Seminar provided authentic market intelligence about the reality of the higher education marketplace and particularly the impact it is having on private, independent colleges and universities. Most importantly, much of the content presented and the ensuing discussions facilitated a shared understanding about the importance—and necessity—of doing. Living in the past and skewing planning perspectives based on the antiquated practice of prestigious assessment are no longer sustainable. The seminar featured numerous interactive discussions among the participants of the intellectual capital that was shared with them, and one of the key highlights was that participants were inspired to go back to their campuses and facilitate more edupreneurial doing. Now is the time to DO.