Illustration of business person holding a giant slice of pie

Food-for-Thought Insights Worth Digesting

No question, the spirit of Thanksgiving is often about the delectable servings that bring us together to celebrate. Unfortunately, the lingering “food for thought” that is preoccupying the hearts and minds of so many people working today in the higher education sector is creating more consternation rather than satisfaction. Yes, higher education marketplace conditions continue to be a challenge—but they serve as a catalyst for looking for new opportunities and innovative solutions. In that spirit, several reflections about the industry stand out this month:

“Barring significant changes in people’s desire for college, demographic shifts promise to reshape parts of higher education in the decade to come. However, by looking past those forces, which we cannot control, and focusing keenly on the fulfillment of our missions, which we can control, we can create new and better futures for our students and our institutions.”
Nathan D. Grawe, author of Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education, writing in The Chronicle Review

“To ensure financial sustainability, many colleges and universities are responding by experimenting with changes to their business models. … Today, I think most colleges with narrowly defined mission statements, especially those that are primarily undergraduate liberal arts institutions, need to think very seriously about moving outside their lanes.”
Lucie Lapovsky, higher education financial consultant, writing in Forbes

“The challenge for [smaller] institutions, then, is to devise a plan for surviving the crash. … Based on current enrollment trends, what they’re doing now doesn’t appear to be working. Simply doing more of it and doing it better strikes me a losing strategy. I have my own advice for institutions in the demographic crosshairs: Downsize, deflate, discount, dot-connect, and depoliticize.”
Rob Jenkins, associate professor of English at Georgia State University-Perimeter College, writing for the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal

“At a time when innovation is at a premium and the future for higher education is more unpredictable than ever, creative abrasion [engineered conflict with the premise that openly challenging one another’s views is healthy and productive] is a concept that future presidents, candidates, search committees, and trustees simply must embrace.”
Lucy A. Leske, senior partner at WittKieffer, writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education

Marketplace reality has set in for higher education, and it is impacting all colleges and universities. As we approach 2020, it will be interesting to see if there is a demonstration of more innovative thinking and edupreneurial doing. Now is the time.


Most Impactful Market Trend

66% of private college and university leaders anticipate facing increased or new forms of competition for prospective students. (ACE)

Slowing Tuition Revenue Growth

Moody’s expects sluggish tuition revenue growth of 2.3% at private nonprofits next year, falling below its 3% proxy for inflation. (via Education Dive)

College-Choosing Criteria

82% of students narrowed down their college choices based on financial criteria, compared to 79% on academics and 64% on personal fit. (Sallie Mae)


Lawlor Recommends

Higher education is living history. And just like so many other organizations and institutions, colleges and universities adapting to the reality of the marketplace is a necessity. While “yesterday is not today,” the spirit of coming together, reflecting on positive opportunities, and then doing something distinctive that impacts students’ lives will leave a lasting impression and be a catalyst for so many alumni, families, and communities to give thanks.

Best wishes to all for a Happy Thanksgiving!