It’s no secret that higher education is facing a sort of crisis. As public aid is slashed and students are faced with mounting debts, many are questioning the value of four-year colleges and universities. Can they remain relevant, accessible, and successful in their mission of preparing students for the rigors facing them as they move into their professional lives? The Pittsburgh Quarterly recently asked the presidents of leading institutions to identify the greatest challenges facing their schools and higher education in general. We’ll share them with you today.

Alleghany College

  • Challenge: affordability, access, student indebtedness, and career preparation.

  • Solution: schools must create a niche for themselves to stay relevant, as they have by focusing on creating good citizens, not just good students.

Carnegie Mellon University

  • Challenge: lack of innovation.

  • Solution: technological platforms like the university’s Open Learning Initiative (OLI) that makes education affordable and accessible for students in community colleges statewide.

Carlow University

  • Challenge: breaking free from the 20th century “one size fits all” industrial model of education.

  • Solution: intensive, interactive, and individualized learning experiences that empower students to achieve success on their own terms.

Chatham University

  • Challenge: access and affordability.

  • Solution: a new national policy to address financing higher education and student access.

Community College of Allegheny County

  • Challenge: community colleges dedicate too much time and resources to helping students who are not adequately prepared for college. This explains the poor community college graduation rates nationwide.

  • Solution: community colleges must embrace data-driven policies to improve student performance.

Duquesne University

  • Challenge: maintaining superior national education while staying within families’ budgets.

  • Solution: maintain affordability and avoid cost inflation by carefully examining expenditures and seeking funding from alumni and other private sources.

Geneva College

  • Challenge: rising operating costs, heightened debt sensitivity, and shrinking federal and state budgets.

  • Solution: economic restructuring and advancement of non-traditional programs like their Adult Degree Completion Program. Computer technology also supports large growth with relatively small investments.

Grove City College

  • Challenge: online distance education poses a financial and pedagogic threat to traditional higher education.

  • Solution: incorporate distance learning into traditional higher education curriculums.

Indiana University of Pennsylvania

  • Challenge: growing expectations and shrinking budgets.

  • Solution: involve all stakeholders, inside and outside the university, to establish shared vision, goals, and investment.

These are good solutions which are tailored to their respective institutions, and what they have in common is that they require an organizational change process to implement. Universities can be rife with resistance to change, and frequently, faculty are resistant to change they have not originated and/or change they perceive will affect them negatively.

In today’s environment, getting buy-in from stakeholders is critical to the success of initiatives, and higher education administrators and boards of trustees must ensure both organization alignment and stakeholder attunement is present to be successful. By gaining buy-in from stakeholders at every level and at every step of the way, you can achieve your organization goals and implement the changes that you need.