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Balancing Acts in the Higher Ed Marketplace

Risk tolerance is being tested on both sides of today’s higher education marketplace.

For prospective students and their families, it’s a calculation of whether or not the up-front investment required to pay their college bills, combined with their long-term loan repayment, has a realistic chance of paying off when it comes to their post-graduate outcomes.

For higher education institutions, it’s an effort to discern whether a particular challenge actually creates an opportunity that will prove to be worth acting upon. But the pace of that discernment can be alarmingly slow at some colleges and universities. As a college vice president recently shared with us, some campus communities are absorbed in a culture of admiration—living in the past—while other campus communities are embracing a culture of aspiration and always striving for continuous improvement.

We recently had the privilege of interacting with Walsh College business professor Dr. Laura Frost, who co-wrote a paper titled Cleaning the Closet of Management Innovation: The Forgotten Stage of Exnovation. It’s a reminder that innovations eventually may need to undergo one more transformation: “exnovation,” or their removal from the organization. This concept was a catalyst for reminding us of the importance of determining what is notsustainable, relevant, or a worthwhile investment of resources. If we are going to be #MarketSmart, innovation should also be accompanied by exnovation.

As players on each side of the higher education marketplace try to balance their risks and rewards, senior leadership at colleges and universities must accept that old ways of thinking may no longer accommodate the realities faced by students and families today and in the future.


The Stress of Student Loans

“Student loans take a mental toll on young people,” find two recent studies that identify both financial and emotional burdens. (CNBC)

Push for Outcomes Transparency 

Enhancements to the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard continue, including a new comparison tool. (Inside Higher Ed)

“Trends in College Pricing 2017”

Increased grant aid and tax benefits over the past five years covered 65% of the published tuition/fees increase at private nonprofits. (College Board)


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The higher education marketplace calls for more leaders at colleges and universities to be “edupreneurial,” thinking differently and distinctly about how to leverage and evolve their institutional legacies to align with today’s realities. A sustained commitment to being strategically bold is an absolute necessity. As the Olympic champion Gail Devers noted, “Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.” Colleges and universities must begin discussing, discerning, and deciding now to implement new ideas that are relevant to both their mission and the marketplace.