- When it comes to the greatest challenges facing smaller institutions, Carthage College President John Swallow told Education Dive yesterday these include "the demographic challenges of updating traditional undergraduate programs," a cultural "willingness to choose new programs, given a school's mission," and figuring out how to make school financially accessible for a range of socioeconomically diverse students.
- Swallow explained that, given dwindling resources and funding for higher education in general, the role of the president, especially at a smaller institution, is to ask "what is the institution capable of" and take on a strategy of "evaluating new ideas of expansion rigorously" before implementing them.
- In terms of addressing industry shifts, Swallow said most want to be "bold and innovative," but he doesn't think "the steps necessary have to be a large disruption." While it's true that to address the challenges he mentioned, the school will have to "invest in new programs" and find "nontraditional revenue streams," he believes the best approach to stay afloat is balancing the maintenance of institutional mission with cautious innovation.
Industry stakeholders are well aware that funding for higher education across public and private institutions is becoming increasingly tight. In fact, research shows states are currently spending about $9 billion less on higher education than they were in 2008. Other data shows that about 33 states had garnered revenue below their original projections last year. Subsequently, schools, especially smaller ones, are gearing up for the possibility of closures, mergers and dropped assets in order to stay afloat.
But that's just the reality of the industry, said Swallow, who has been a small college president for just over a year. He added that in order to really survive financial woes, it's critical that small institution leaders stay true to institutional mission while considering the types of expansions that work, given local economic needs and the student body, rather than haphazardly taking on programs for the sake of following a disruptive trend.
"We have the flexibility, but that doesn't mean we need to innovate rapidly," said Swallow. "We're going to be thinking about what new programs we should start. But first, we're going to do the work this year to figure out what that would mean for our fiscal plans. How do we use our facilities more efficiently if we were to build something new?"
"I don't think we are going to know what the right programs are on a whim. But, we have to be in a position to implement one that works for our school when we think the time is right."