A decades-long expansion of higher education institutions — a golden era when many of today’s campus leaders came of age — is over. According to our analysis, some 800 institutions face critical strategic challenges because of their inefficiencies or their small size.
Until recently, colleges and universities had enjoyed the benefits of two lengthy and successive expansion periods in the history of higher education. Higher education is now firmly situated in a third era, which is marked by diminished state and federal spending, lagging personal incomes of college-going families, and increased accountability around outcomes, particularly the view that the role of colleges is to prepare graduates for a job. But this new era doesn’t necessarily portend the end of the road for many colleges, as some pundits argue. Rather, it demands a significant shift in strategy for institutions around the idea of collaboration and the development of much deeper partnerships than higher education has ever seen before.
Our conversations with campus leaders at a wide range of institutions suggest a three-step process to consider, as options for partnerships are weighed. In this report, we emphasize how collaboration can help define this new era of higher education, as one of growth through cooperation rather than retrenchment.