Does Your College or University Need a Strategy? Three Comprehensive Examples to Guide College Administrators


What to consider

In today’s competitive higher education landscape, having a clear and effective strategy is essential for colleges and universities to succeed. A well-defined strategy – overall, or in specific areas – can help institutions navigate challenges, allocate resources effectively, and adapt to a rapidly changing environment. This article will explore three comprehensive examples that can help college administrators determine whether their institution has a strategy, why having one is important, and how to approach its development.

Declining Enrollment Rates

The Challenge: College A has experienced a steady decline in enrollment rates over the past few years, which has significantly impacted its financial stability. This decline is primarily due to shifting demographics, increasing competition, misaligned and outdated marketing and recruitment strategies. Critically, College A’s lack of differentiation has made it difficult for prospective students to identify the unique value and opportunities it offers.

The Need for a Strategy: College A needs a comprehensive strategy to address its declining enrollment rates. This strategy should include:

  1. A thorough analysis of the institution’s target demographics and the factors contributing to the decline in enrollment. This analysis should include researching demographic trends, understanding changes in the student population, and identifying potential new target audiences that align well with the institution’s value propositions and offerings.
  2. An assessment of current marketing and recruitment strategies and tactics, identifying areas for improvement and innovation. This may involve reviewing brand, messaging, message targets, recruitment processes and roles, events, and ultimately exploring new methods for reaching prospective students.
  3. Development of a new marketing and branding campaign to reposition the institution and appeal both more broadly, and specifically, to identified populations of prospective students. This could include refining the institution’s messaging, updating visual branding elements, and leveraging digital marketing channels to reach a broader audience, and, importantly, developing the capacity to message with specificity to specific target segments with efficacy.
  4. Implementation of student success initiatives to ensure enrolled students have the support and resources necessary to succeed and graduate. This may include expanding academic support services, developing mentorship programs, and enhancing career services, among many other key factors.  This is critical to solving the institution’s enrollment issues for two key reasons: first, enrolled students have already chosen the institution, and retaining them should be highest priority, and second, happy graduates are the best, most effective recruiting tool a college can have.

By developing and executing a well-defined strategy, College A can address the root causes of its declining enrollment rates and work towards reversing this trend, ultimately shoring up its longer-term financial stability.

Evolving Industry Demands

The Challenge: University B has noticed a significant shift in the needs and expectations of employers in the industries its graduates typically enter. As a result, some of the university’s programs and curricula no longer align with the current demands of the job market, leading to lower job placement rates for graduates, and fewer graduates obtaining the types of positions they wanted in the industries in which they were planning to work upon graduation. Additionally, the university’s alumni network is not as engaged as it could be, which hinders its ability to provide valuable connections and resources for students and recent graduates.

The Need for a Strategy: University B must develop a strategy to adapt its offerings – both academic and resource-based – to meet the evolving demands of the job market. This strategy should include:

  1. Regular communication and collaboration with industry partners to identify current and future workforce needs. This could involve creating advisory boards, conducting employer surveys, and hosting industry events to foster dialogue and gather insights.
  2. A comprehensive review of existing programsto determine areas for improvement, refinement, expansion, or consolidation. This may include conducting benchmarking analyses, soliciting feedback from students, faculty, and industry, and evaluating the success of graduates in their respective fields.
  3. Development of new, workforce-aligned programs and resources and experiential learning opportunities to better prepare students for success in their chosen fields. This could involve creating and refining internship programs, incorporating project-based learning, and partnering with industry leaders to develop relevant coursework.
  4. Continuous assessment and improvement of academic offerings to ensure they remain relevant and competitive. This should involve regular reviews of curricula, feedback from stakeholders, and adjustments based on changing industry needs and best practices.
  5. Enhancing alumni engagement initiatives to create a more robust, interested, and involved network that supports students and recent graduates in their career development. This may include hosting networking events, developing mentorship programs, and leveraging technology to facilitate connections between alumni and students.

By implementing a forward-thinking strategy that aligns academic offerings with industry demands (without compromising or sacrificing academic independence and integrity), University B can improve its graduates’ job placement rates and ensure that its programs remain relevant and valuable in a rapidly changing job market.

Underutilized Campus Resources

The Challenge: College C has invested heavily in state-of-the-art facilities and resources across an array of areas, including facilities, student amenities, athletic facilities, and technology infrastructure. However, many of these resources remain underutilized by students, faculty, and community members. This underutilization has resulted in a poor return on investment and missed opportunities for collaboration and innovation.

The Need for a Strategy: College C needs a comprehensive strategy to optimize the use of its campus resources (while prioritizing optimal future investment in resources) and maximize their impact on the institution and its community. This strategy should include:

  1. A thorough evaluation of existing resources to determine their current utilization rates, identify barriers to access, and explore opportunities for increased usage. This may involve conducting surveys, analyzing usage data, and gathering feedback from stakeholders.
  2. Development of targeted initiatives to promote and encourage the use of underutilized resources. This could include hosting workshops, offering training sessions, and creating incentive programs for faculty, staff, and students to engage with these resources.  Where possible, this could also involve understanding which of these resources would be appropriate to sunset or substantially modify (where possible) – due to expected ongoing underutilization measured against required ongoing investment.
  3. Strengthening partnerships with local businesses, nonprofits, and community organizations to expand the reach and impact of campus resources. This may involve offering space for community events, collaborating on unique and mutually beneficial projects, or providing access to facilities for local groups.
  4. Implementing communication strategies to raise awareness of the resources available on campus and their potential benefits. This could include creating promotional materials, leveraging social media, and hosting campus-wide events to showcase the institution’s resources and their applicability to its stakeholders.
  5. Continuously monitoring the utilization and impact of campus resources to ensure they are meeting the needs of the institution and its stakeholders. This should involve collecting feedback, tracking usage data, and making necessary adjustments to improve access and engagement.

By developing and implementing a strategy to optimize the use of campus resources, College C can maximize the return on its investments, enhance collaboration and innovation, and strengthen its ties to the surrounding community.


These three comprehensive examples illustrate the importance of having well-defined strategies for colleges and universities to navigate the challenges and opportunities present in today’s higher education landscape. By addressing declining enrollment rates, adapting to evolving industry demands, and optimizing the use of campus resources, college administrators can develop targeted and effective strategies that better position their institutions for long-term success. Developing, communicating, and executing a clear strategy will enable institutions to adapt to a rapidly changing environment, allocate resources effectively, and achieve their goals.

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