How Colleges and Universities Can Grow Their Enrollment and Resources
Two major factors will demand an entrepreneurial approach from higher education institutions: declining state and federal support for higher education, and increased competition for existing resources. It is important to note that the decline in funding affects private institutions as well as the public. While the ethos and mission statement of an institution is, of course, important, it cannot be implemented with a critical lack of capital.
Each university must examine its financial strategy and identify new sources of revenue. Two potential sources for tuition-dependent institutions are as follows: increasing student enrollment and increasing external funding. To ensure its financial viability, we must focus on both of these sources in a long- and short-term framework.
Enrollment at colleges and universities can grow in several ways including increasing enrollment targets, increasing transfer student enrollment, and improving student retention. In terms of external funding, on the other hand, we must find ways to maximize alumni donations and re-engage alumni who may not have donated in the past. If successful, these strategies could have a major impact on the viability of any university.
Improving external funding will require the development of a comprehensive alumni network and a strategy to engage new and younger alumni. The benefits of doing so are evident when one considers that if 1,000 alumni donated $500 over one year, that institution would have received 500,000 dollars. Such vital revenue could fund student scholarships, develop new programs, and support faculty.
Alumni donations must improve to ensure the continuation of a universities mission yet doing so is no easy feat. How can we encourage former students to donate if they are currently hesitant or unsure about making such an investment? How can the advancement office effectively reach these members of the college community?
Quite simply, we must work to develop and implement effective and cost-efficient strategies and capitalize on this income channel. Engaging alumni by finding ways to bring them back to campus and connecting with them via social media to let them see the great work the college is still doing for current students are both vital to increasing the amount of money this group is willing to contribute to future graduates.
Although alumni donations are a vital source of income, these alone cannot equalize the historical imbalance in funding and resources. Struggling institutions must identify benefactors such as corporations and private donors who are willing to contribute to the institution. For instance, an institution such which has experienced severe under-resourcing for 140 years needs substantial financial wells such as these to draw from if it is to bridge the gap of inequality.
Donations such as these, particularly those which are consistent and long-term, will allow it to sustain itself into the future. What struggling universities require is a benefactor with a transformative impact, such as the relationship between Boon Pickens and Oklahoma State University.
A vital question for many universities is who this benefactor could be, and how can they be successfully engaged? You must seriously pursue this strategy by finding creative ways to reach alumni and donors and to establish partnerships with corporations and foundations.
Perhaps in years to come, we will witness the development of the Oprah Winfrey Division of Business or the Willie Nelson Division of Music. In many ways what is required is significant public relations and entrepreneurial work, to allow us to maximize capital and compete on a global level.
Can you think of any additional ways that institutions of higher education can grow their enrollment and financial resources?