Responding to College Vulnerability, Part 2

Becky Morehouse

Becky Morehouse

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Two weeks ago, we looked at an array of factors and characteristics that most often contribute to institutional vulnerability.

Last week we looked at ideas and suggestions for addressing the first six institutional characteristics. In this blog, we address the next six institutional vulnerability factors and potential remedies.

1. Vulnerability Characteristic: Religiously Affiliated

  • Firstly, expand relationship and seek co-branding opportunities with sponsoring denomination
  • Create a database of graduates who work at denominational churches
  • Develop relationships with denominations that are theological similar to yours
  • Stress cultural values of generosity, community, inclusion, etc. to non-denominational students

2. Vulnerability Characteristic: Little Ability to Shape the Class as Pressure to Simply Get a Class Increases

  • Create a comprehensive high school relations strategy
  • Additionally create a database of graduates who work locally and regionally
  • Extend your brand to nearby geographic areas that contain students with a similar profile to your graduates
  • Develop meaningful and reputable honors programming to help preserve academic reputation

3. Vulnerability Characteristic: Academic Programs are Largely Similar to Those Offered by Competitors

  • Identify and build your brand around four or five academic programs that:
    1. Are offered at a high level of academic quality at your institution
    2. Are in demand by both employers AND students
    3. Have capacity
    4. Are high margin
  • Undertake a robust, objective (using external partners for additional legitimacy) analysis of potential academic majors and stress factors 1-4 (above)
  • Seek relationships with other local/regional colleges that offer programs you cannot
  • Use a consistent business plan for all proposed academic programs so comparisons and evaluations are straightforward and consistent

4. Vulnerability Characteristic: Few High Demand, High Margin Programs

  • See recommendations in vulnerability characteristic 3, above
  • Furthermore conduct an assessment of academic program offerings that examines demand, cost, and revenue of existing programs
  • Reduce the number of non-missional programs that have low demand and invest in existing high demand programs that have both high margin and capacity

5. Vulnerability Characteristic: More Likely to Describe Themselves as Liberal Arts Colleges (Though Most are Not) Than Professional or Pre-Professional Institutions

  • Focus on and communicate the outcomes of a liberal arts education. Stress high employability, communication and critical thinking skills, leadership, ability to work with diverse people groups
  • Highlight job and graduate school placement especially in non-liberal arts professions and programs
  • Highlight liberal arts alumni who are working in non-liberal arts professions

6. Vulnerability Characteristic: Have a Cost That is Higher Than Major Competitors

  • Stress value from the perspective of current and prospective students
  • If true, stress shortened time to degree compared to competitors
  • Increase the quality of academic advising
  • Shorten time to degree
  • Identify potential three-year bachelor’s programs
  • Likewise identify dual major possibilities
  • Develop AP programs with feeder high schools

7. Vulnerability Characteristic: Lower/Falling Graduation Rates

  • Identify and remedy causes of low retention/graduation rates
  • Highlight honors programming for high performers
  • Conduct research of current high-ability, persisting students to determine why they choose your institution
  • Finally, use information from above research as part of a segmented recruiting communication strategy

Next week we’ll review a final set of recommendations.

Interested in how to better respond to institutional vulnerability? Connect with me to discuss how Stamats can help!

Read Next: Responding to College Vulnerability, Part 3

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