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Crisis in Higher Education: A Plan to Save Small Liberal Arts Colleges in America

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In 2005 Adrian College was home to 840 enrolled students and had a tuition income of $8.54 million. By fall of 2011, enrollment had soared to 1,688, and tuition income had increased to $20.45 million. For the first time in years, the small liberal arts college was financially viable. Adrian College experienced this remarkable growth during the worst American economy in sev In 2005 Adrian College was home to 840 enrolled students and had a tuition income of $8.54 million. By fall of 2011, enrollment had soared to 1,688, and tuition income had increased to $20.45 million. For the first time in years, the small liberal arts college was financially viable. Adrian College experienced this remarkable growth during the worst American economy in seventy years and in a state ravaged by the decline of the big three auto companies. How, exactly, did this turnaround happen? Crisis in Higher Education: A Plan to Save Small Liberal Arts Colleges in America was written to facilitate replication and generalization of Adrian College’s tremendous enrollment growth and retention success since 2005. This book directly addresses the economic competitiveness of small four-year institutions of higher education and presents an evidence-based solution to the enrollment and economic crises faced by many small liberal arts colleges throughout the country.


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In 2005 Adrian College was home to 840 enrolled students and had a tuition income of $8.54 million. By fall of 2011, enrollment had soared to 1,688, and tuition income had increased to $20.45 million. For the first time in years, the small liberal arts college was financially viable. Adrian College experienced this remarkable growth during the worst American economy in sev In 2005 Adrian College was home to 840 enrolled students and had a tuition income of $8.54 million. By fall of 2011, enrollment had soared to 1,688, and tuition income had increased to $20.45 million. For the first time in years, the small liberal arts college was financially viable. Adrian College experienced this remarkable growth during the worst American economy in seventy years and in a state ravaged by the decline of the big three auto companies. How, exactly, did this turnaround happen? Crisis in Higher Education: A Plan to Save Small Liberal Arts Colleges in America was written to facilitate replication and generalization of Adrian College’s tremendous enrollment growth and retention success since 2005. This book directly addresses the economic competitiveness of small four-year institutions of higher education and presents an evidence-based solution to the enrollment and economic crises faced by many small liberal arts colleges throughout the country.

30 review for Crisis in Higher Education: A Plan to Save Small Liberal Arts Colleges in America

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tommy Kiedis

    There are some 3,400 colleges and universities in the United States. Leaders of these institutions are confronting the demographic cliff, "free tuition," the student debt crisis, the impact of a global pandemic, and the move to online modalities. These delightfully challenging days are made even more formidable for smaller private independent colleges which are tuition-driven. What is a leader to do? Jeffrey R. Docking, President of Adrian College, says "the biggest risk is to do nothing at all! There are some 3,400 colleges and universities in the United States. Leaders of these institutions are confronting the demographic cliff, "free tuition," the student debt crisis, the impact of a global pandemic, and the move to online modalities. These delightfully challenging days are made even more formidable for smaller private independent colleges which are tuition-driven. What is a leader to do? Jeffrey R. Docking, President of Adrian College, says "the biggest risk is to do nothing at all!" Colleges must grow their enrollment or face the likely slow slide of institutional death. Docking took the helm of Adrian College in 2005 with a bold revenue-building model that ultimately saved their institution. Docking shares that model in Crisis in Higher Education: A Plan to Save Small Liberal Arts Colleges in America or else. I found this work logical and practical. The results Adrian has achieved speak for themselves: First, enrollment increases by the hundreds and, second, increased budget revenue by the millions. I am a presidential newbie, assuming the leadership of Lancaster Bible College, in February 2020. Dr. Docking's work has helped me better understand the academic business model. How? By clarifying admissions strategies that do not work and by carefully explaining and illustrating his Admissions Growth model, a model that has proven incredibly effective for Adrian College. Here are eight enrollment strategies that don't work according to Docking: 1. Rebranding: Students rarely pick a college based on its brand. 2. Adding Satellite Campuses: They cannot deliver the same experience as the mother ship. 3. Investment in Online Education: He calls online "disengaged education," but the trends and research are proving him wrong with respect to modality. And the online revenue model works. 4. Adding Professional Programs and "Trade School" Certification Programs: They are not bad, they are just not what prospective students are looking for in a college education. 5. Building New Academic Facilities: Seventeen year-olds do not choose where to spend their next four years based on academic buildings. 6. Increase library holdings: Prospective students hold the gateway to research in the palms of their hands. 7. Publicizing Faculty Research: Enrollment research identifies this as a very small contributing factor to enrollment. 8. Manufacturing Fun outside the Classroom: Fun off-campus experiences do not draw students. And what does work? Creating an admissions growth strategy that prioritizes the following six steps: 1. Do your homework and set goals. This pertains to every facet of your institution. Where do we excel? What sports would our region support? What must we stop doing and why? 2. Build and upgrade required facilities. 3. Fund teams and activities fully and set recruiting goals. 4. Focus on return on investment by holding recruiters accountable. 5. Redirect new income to academic facilities and programs. 6. Continue to build and utilize momentum for further growth. More than a whack on the side of the head . . . Crisis in Higher Education: A Plan to Save Small Liberal Arts Colleges in America was an education for this educator. Here are a few of my takeaways: 1. Accountability: "Each program must be led by someone who is accountable for recruitment and retention" (25). Institutions must stress accountability at the admissions recruitment level as well. When you don't have accountability you don't have responsibility, and when you don't have responsibility recruitment fails. "Accountability is what distinguishes the Admissions Growth plan from every other enrollment fix being bandied around in books and magazines and on websites addressing the current crisis in higher education" (51). 2. Transparency: Confront every brutal fact (budget, enrollment, trends, etc) and be as transparent as possible. 3. Budget Cuts: "You cannot cut your way to prosperity" (40). 4. Sports: Utilize sports as a key admission mechanism (with full-time coaches and high accountability to recruit or forfeit one's job). This is "the key to the Admissions Growth plan" (55). Tables 3 - 8 (57-63) are very helpful. 5. Facilities and Infrastructure: New buildings won't necessarily bring students, but decrepit ones will turn them off. 6. Focus: Keep your eye on faculty and education. Docking is quick to emphasize that facilities, infrastructure and sports feed admissions which feeds academics. Faculty will need to catch the vision and endure the start-up that leads to academic improvement and increase in remuneration. The Admissions Growth model is ultimately about a better education. 7. Communication: "American inventor Charles Kettering said: 'a problem well-stated is a problem half-solved.' The problem this book addresses is low enrollment. Tuition from enrollment accounts for 90% of most small institutional budgets. "So the formula is really very simple: If you need more money, then grow the largest part of your budget" (107). In our communication, stress the return on investment is improved education, increased faculty, better pay. Summary and recommendation: The primary goal of the Admissions Growth model is "to leverage investments in facilities and programs to bring more students to your campus. Small private colleges can only run on tuition, and tuition comes from students, plain and simple" (79). But those students and facilities do more than "simply" increase tuition dollars. They lead to curb appeal, improved community relations, student retention, and engaged alumni. Why would an educational leader not read Crisis in Higher Education: A Plan to Save Small Liberal Arts Colleges in America unless he or she is content to take that long slide toward institutional demise. Kudos to Carman Curtan for her writing expertise. She worked with Dr. Docking to deliver this polished gem.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Joel

    Must read if you care about: 1) Rethinking higher education, 2) What makes a campus experience valuable 3) You like stories of people who had the audacity to change the way things are done in an entrenched industry.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kristie Harris

    An Excellent Read This book is a must for any small liberal arts college wishing to advance into the next age. I highly recommend, and will be reading it a second time to really grasp the concepts of enrollment enhancement!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    If you lead, work at, or are interested in the world of small/medium private colleges this book is essential reading.

  5. 5 out of 5

    dylan fogarty

    Eight months later, I finally picked this one back up to finish – and I'm glad I did. I live and breathe the "crisis in higher education" every day, so this book reaffirmed what I hear from small liberal arts colleges nationwide. Today, in 2021, the business model of higher education is being challenged and pressured far greater than Jeff could have predicted, yet it amazes me how forward-thinking he was in 2015. Not only did I learn more about leadership in higher education than I even imagined Eight months later, I finally picked this one back up to finish – and I'm glad I did. I live and breathe the "crisis in higher education" every day, so this book reaffirmed what I hear from small liberal arts colleges nationwide. Today, in 2021, the business model of higher education is being challenged and pressured far greater than Jeff could have predicted, yet it amazes me how forward-thinking he was in 2015. Not only did I learn more about leadership in higher education than I even imagined, but I also picked up a few nuggets that are applicable to leadership in any industry: – Keep focus on “return on investment” over “cost to implement" – Assess the risk of doing nothing – Low investment leads to low return – Constant communication is key to mitigate resistance – Need bold and confident leadership from the top during extreme periods of change

  6. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    Fascinating.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jason Golomb

    This is really a fascinating look at a business model I wasn't aware existed: stabilize, recover the base, and grow a small college by developing the sports and extracurricular programs...take that money and the recurring revenues from growing student base and reinvest in the college itself and academic programs. It's actually a very simple approach and, in some ways, counterintuitive. The book is capably written, the highlights are absolutely in the realm of leadership and the particulars of Jeff This is really a fascinating look at a business model I wasn't aware existed: stabilize, recover the base, and grow a small college by developing the sports and extracurricular programs...take that money and the recurring revenues from growing student base and reinvest in the college itself and academic programs. It's actually a very simple approach and, in some ways, counterintuitive. The book is capably written, the highlights are absolutely in the realm of leadership and the particulars of Jeffry Docking's 'Admissions Growth' approach to pulling small Adrian College out of a death spiral. This book, a very short and fast read, will resonate those interested in the growing crisis of american higher education (specifically related to costs), as well as those interested in a small business success story.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    A quick read, this case study on the success of Adrian College's turnaround will be interesting to anybody who cares about the continued viability of small, private, liberal arts colleges. Adrian is in the network of colleges I work with and their impressive "righting of the ship" speaks for itself. Docking provides a model worthy of conversation, and his emphasis on data-based goals and accountability for outcomes is one that leaders in many sectors should heed. A quick read, this case study on the success of Adrian College's turnaround will be interesting to anybody who cares about the continued viability of small, private, liberal arts colleges. Adrian is in the network of colleges I work with and their impressive "righting of the ship" speaks for itself. Docking provides a model worthy of conversation, and his emphasis on data-based goals and accountability for outcomes is one that leaders in many sectors should heed.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Cassie

    A systematic account of how a new president saved my alma mater with brave initiatives and businesslike follow-through. This case study provides lessons learned that apply to many situations, not just a small liberal arts college setting. A+ for Dr. Docking.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Robin Hopkins

    very mixed feelings about this book for sure.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ann

  12. 5 out of 5

    Emily

  13. 5 out of 5

    Amber

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chris

  15. 5 out of 5

    Zachary Lewis

  16. 5 out of 5

    Emily

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ron Niekamp

  18. 5 out of 5

    Maya

  19. 5 out of 5

    Natalie Alsop

  20. 4 out of 5

    John Ceffalio

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ed Barton

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rob Kleine

  23. 5 out of 5

    BJ Pheasant

  24. 4 out of 5

    Coralee Holm

  25. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  26. 4 out of 5

    Alan

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

  28. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mark Cole

  30. 5 out of 5

    Katrina D'Aquin

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