In an interview with Education Dive, Kathleen Dawley, principal of Hardwick Day and a member of the board of trustees at Regis College, said the current business model in higher ed is sustainable “under certain circumstances,” but many institutions don’t have a perfect storm of conditions.
Favorable demographics, a desirable brand and a slate of unique program offerings are all of the factors that have to be in place for an institution to remain viable in an increasingly competitive environment.
- Dawley said most institutions — particularly small, private liberal arts institutions which comprise a majority of the higher ed marketplace — struggle with two or more of these factors.
Dawley said many institutions, particularly those in the Northeast and Midwest, are facing dwindling feeder populations as the number of 18- to 21-year-olds in the regions continues to decline. She projected “this will be a continued issue through 2030, at least,” and colleges will need to get creative about attracting students who are outside of their normal base.
“These institutions who are not in favorable demographic areas, don’t draw from favorable demographic areas, whose brand is not all that familiar or appealing and whose programs are kind of generic … have to think about how they develop and communicate a value proposition that is responsive to these notions of the need to prove the investment value,” she said.
With the increased emphasis on demonstrating a return on investment and in an increasingly competitive landscape, value statements will be critical to the survival of all institutions, not just those with unrecognizable or undesirable brands.